Mike Tomlin is betting on a more placid locker room in 2019, but there are still going to be lots of surprises in store for Steelers fans this season.
The Steelers are making a big bet on the theory of addition by subtraction this season. Both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have been jettisoned from the Pittsburgh locker room. The question left for Mike Tomlin and company to answer is whether or not a happier Steelers team can make up for a decline in high-end talent.
That doesn’t mean the Steelers are devoid of talent. Ben Roethlisberger may be getting older, but he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in football. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are emerging young talents on offense. They won’t make up for Brown and Bell right away, but they’ve already proven they are Pro Bowl caliber players in their own right.
The defense didn’t lose any big names, but the unit needs to play much better in 2019. The addition of first round pick Devin Bush at linebacker should substantially upgrade the group’s athleticism. The secondary remains a problem area.
This piece will focus on five bold predictions for the Steelers in 2019. We start with a disappointing projection for one of the team’s top defensive stars.
5. T.J. Watt won’t post double-digit sacks
Watt led this team with 13 sacks last season, but it’s highly unlikely he’s going to repeat that feat in 2019. Opposing offenses simply aren’t going to give him as many opportunities to work one-on-one against over matched tackles.
That doesn’t mean Watt won’t be an impactful player. His motor runs too hot to ever truly take him out of the game. He’ll be good, he just won’t be great. Expect him to notch somewhere in the neighborhood of eight sacks for what should be a more balanced Steelers defense.