How Much Will the Steelers miss Brown and Bell?
Long time mainstays of the franchise Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell officially departed from the team this offseason. While the Steelers do seem to have replacements lined up, whether they can fully fill the void left behind is another story. Both Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner are great players, but whether they can handle the load is another story. Juju was terrific last year, but as the undisputed WR1 for the Steelers, he’ll be facing more attention and pressure than he has his career. As for Conner, he performed admirably without Bell last year, but he’ll be utilized even more frequently this season. He only rushed 215 time this season, while Bell had 321 attempts his final season on the team. Assuming they try to emulate Bell’s usage with Conner, how well can he adapt to this role? Both are exciting young players, but they’ve never had to deal with attention and pressure like this before. How well they respond could be the x-factor for the Steelers this season.
How Much Does Big Ben Have Left in the Tank?
Ben Roethlisberger is 37 years old, and that raises questions of how much he has left. Yes, Brady is still going strong at 42, but he’s the exception not the expectation. It also doesn’t help that Big Ben has taken so much more hits in his career, thanks to his physical, bruising style of play. Roethlisberger does have several factors going for him, he has a pretty good supporting cast and will be in the same offensive system he’s been with for the past decade. While Big Ben has been solid statistically the past two seasons, there have been games when he’s looked washed. The Steelers do seem to be prepared for his inevitable decline, as they used a second-round pick on a quarterback in the 2018 draft. Whether he can stave it off another season is the big question right now, as the Steelers will likely go as far as he can take them.
Is Mike Tomlin on the Hot Seat?
This is a question that would have seemed laughable as recently as a year ago. But after the disastrous 2018 season, there have been questions about Tomlin’s job security. There were some unflattering pictures painted behind the scenes after Brown’s spat with Roethlisberger, with some even claiming Tomlin lost the team. Whether that was true or not will probably be revealed this year. It’s possible that Brown and Bell were the instigators behind all the team drama last season, but with them gone, we’ll know for sure who was responsible. Tomlin brings a lot to the table, he’s a super bowl winning coach and has been with the team for more than a decade. He’s never finished with a losing record in his head coach career, so history is on his side. Still, it’s hard to ignore the locker room drama, as well as some baffling late game coaching decisions in recent years. This season will likely be an evaluation year for the Steelers management, who will probably decide his future on the team based on this year’s results.