Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7

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Dunlap: National Punditry Wrong On Steelers

Colin Dunlap
May 20, 2020 - 11:13 am

If I have heard it once, I have heard it about 10,000 times headed into this NFL season that will, well, get here at some point we all hope. 

I guess it is fashionable --- or maybe their true opinion --- but I keep hearing how the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to, potentially, be worse than that 8-8 record they posted last season. 

Adam Schein of CBS Sports and Sirius XM is one guy.

Colin Cowherd of FS1 and Fox Sports Radio is another. 

There are plenty of people beating the drum, but they are two of the highest profile and, to be sure, two of the most recent. 

Both of those gentlemen used their national platforms to try to sell to the masses a way in which Mike Tomlin will realize the first losing season he has had since becoming the big boss of the Steelers. 

Their points? All well and good. Some of them made sense even --- especially the part about not knowing the health of Ben Roethlisberger and Tomlin, at times, being a bit frazzled and loose with his decision-making in the most crucial moments. 

I’ll buy all that. Yeah, OK, I’ll buy some of it. 

But I keep coming back to one thing: I can’t find a way to look at this whole situation and arrive at a place where the Pittsburgh Steelers --- largely with the same personnel as last season --- will have a worse record with Roethlisberger than they had without him. 

I mean, it is just that simple.

Sounds like an elementary way to look at it, but how does a team get worse with a Hall of Fame guy coming back at the sport’s most important position? 

The Steelers went 8-8 with Big Ben missing last season almost in its entirety and I can’t get myself to reconcile how they can fall to below a .500 team with him. Or even be an 8-8 team with him. I’m not seeing it. 

There needs to be a giant, colossal caveat with all of this stating that if Big Ben gets hurt, all bets are off here. If Mason Rudolph or The Duck or someone else not named Roethlisberger has to quarterback this football team for any more than a few games, I could see tumult and confusion being the order of the day and below .500 being the result of the year. 

Again, though, let’s assume Big Ben stays upright and healthy….

- This is a defense that was lights out and had two key cogs learning on the fly last season. Devin Bush was a rookie and Minkah Fitzpatrick was acquired in-season so I’m struggling to find a way that both won’t even be better than last season. 

- Steven Nelson surprised many with his play, but he’s always been incredibly solid. How does Nelson teaming with Joe Haden again do anything but make this team better --- or at least as good?

- TJ Watt is now into his own and Bud Dupree is back as a guy who appears to finally get it. 

- Stephon Tuitt missed a big chunk of the season with an injury. I understand the questions in the middle of the line, but how does a line get worse with Tuitt coming back? I can’t find a way. 

- On offense the Steelers didn’t have a quality quarterback (or at least Big Ben) throwing to receivers. Also, those receivers didn’t include JuJu Smith-Schuster many times as he was injured. Tell me how Ben throwing to a now-healthy JuJu and company makes this team worse. 

- Isn’t Eric Ebron supposed to provide yet another target? Especially in the red zone? 

So, sure, there are questions about the offensive line and running game. I get all that. There are deep questions about James Conner and his ability to carry the load as a No. 1 back and also hold onto the football. 

After that, though, with this (re)addition of Roethlisberger I can’t reach a place where I think the Steelers could possibly be worse. 

Maybe guys like Cowherd and Schein know something. Maybe they will be right in the end --- who knows, it all needs to play out. 

But I think in late-May, and knowing what we know now, it is totally impossible to exclaim the Steelers will be worse than last season. 

Clickbait stuff, even. ​

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