It’s easy to fall in love with the Kansas City Chiefs as a potential dynasty in the making. A team with young stars on offense and a defense that came together in a big way, they very well may be back to the Super Bowl next season, and in the years to come.
The big picture: As we ponder which franchises may be able to take down the Chiefs in 2020, it’s evident the Pittsburgh Steelers should not be discounted as the team to do just that.
Though, clearly, there will be a ton of competition for the right to play in Super Bowl LV.
Youth movement: The AFC is going to be a fun football landscape in coming seasons with young superstar quarterbacks leading resurgent teams. Here’s a look at which teams fitting that description that will give Patrick Mahomes and Co. a run for their money in 2020.
- Baltimore Ravens: With Lamar Jackson coming off his historic MVP season and just starting to scratch the surface of his own passing abilities, the Ravens will be contenders for a long time.
- Houston Texans: Get Deshaun Watson an offensive line and the Texans will be lethal. This team has championship potential with stars on both sides of the ball.
- Tennessee Titans: Looks like Ryan Tannehill will be back, and he has some exciting young talent to work with in the passing game. With that run game and defense the Titans are legit.
- Buffalo Bills: Featuring one of the NFL’s best defenses that’s loaded with young stars, the Bills just need Josh Allen to continue taking positive strides in 2020 to be considered one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC.
Then there’s the Denver Broncos, who may be very good if Drew Lock can take a leap in his second year. And we can’t forget about the Cleveland Browns, who are hoping a fresh voice in Kevin Stefanski can turn Baker Mayfield and Co. around.
The New England Patriots also cannot be ruled out as long as Tom Brady remains a possibility.
So, why the Steelers? The Steelers have the ingredients to set the NFL on fire in 2020 and come roaring back as an elite franchise after a frustrating, humbling 2019 campaign.
- Steelers will (hopefully) have veteran gunslinger Ben Roethlisberger healthy and re-energized next year after his season-ending shoulder injury derailed last season.
- They have a defense that’s among the league’s most dominant
- Head coach in Mike Tomlin has proven himself to be among the greats.
After falling short of the playoffs the past two seasons, this team can bounce back in a big way.
Tools to succeed: A lot was made out of the Steelers losing Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell the past couple of seasons, and those losses certainly were factors. But looking ahead, the Steelers have playmakers on offense to feature one of the league’s most dynamic offenses.
- Despite a frustrating 2019 campaign, JuJu Smith-Schuster is still one of the league’s most exciting young receivers and should benefit from the lessons learned this past season.
- James Washington and Diontae Johnson are electric. They both can fly, and with Roethlisberger coming back the deep passing game will be tough to defend.
- James Conner leads a trio of young running backs capable of destroying defenses both on the ground and through the air.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is still darn good, too. This offense is still capable of putting up elite numbers. It just was handcuffed in 2019 due to substandard quarterback play.
The bottom line: Sleep on the Steelers as legit contenders in 2020 at your own risk.
The young defense, led by T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds will only get better with experience. The offense is going to be a force once more next season with Roethlisberger coming back.
And don’t forget Tomlin nearly had the Steelers in the playoffs last season. He’ll get a lot more out of his squad in 2020.