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Predicting each game of the Steelers’ 2019 season

It’s too bad the Steelers don’t own the Raiders on the field the way they own them during the offseason.

Last year, the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for a third-round draft pick that eventually turned into Mason Rudolph. The latter might only be a backup quarterback, but unlike Bryant he’s on an NFL roster.

Then this year the Steelers shipped Antonio Brown to Oakland for a third- and a fifth-round draft pick. Considering Brown’s antics, that deal is looking better for the Steelers every day.

For about five years the Steelers thought they could get back to the Super Bowl with fireworks on offense.

It didn’t quite work out.

Now Brown and Le’Veon Bell are gone, and even while they were here the Steelers were trying to build up their defense. Devin Bush is their seventh straight defensive player drafted in the first round. The Steelers had never even drafted a defensive player in the first round for three straight years before 2013, and according to Pro Football Reference only one other team has done it seven years in a row. Which team is that? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out.

Of those seven first-rounders, only T.J. Watt has had a significant impact. Terrell Edmunds, drafted in 2017, could make a second-year leap. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the safety played more defensive snaps than all but three NFL rookies. So he’s had plenty of on-the-job training.

The Steelers traded up 10 spots to draft Bush at No. 10 in April. Since Kevin Colbert took over as Steelers general manager in 2000, the team has traded up in the first round only three times. The first time was 2003, when they took Troy Polamalu. The second was in 2006, when they took Santonio Holmes. That’s a Hall of Fame candidate and a Super Bowl MVP. If the Bush trade turns out to be as savvy as the other two, if Edmunds does break out and if Watt keeps making plays, the Steelers might at least be able to protect some fourth-quarter leads.

But will it be good enough to get them back to the playoffs and ultimately clear the bar that this franchise has set for itself, which is a seventh Lombardi Trophy?

This blog hasn’t been too far off with game-by-game predictions.

In 2016 we predicted an 11-5 record and a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Steelers went 11-5 and lost in the AFC championship.

In 2017 we predicted 12-4 and a four-point loss in the divisional round. They went 13-3 and lost by three in the divisional round.

Last year, we predicted 10-6. They went 9-6-1. We also, um, predicted a Super Bowl loss. They didn’t quite get that far.

How far will they go this year? Let’s find out.

Week 1

at New England

The last time the Patriots failed to reach the AFC championship game was 2010, Rob Gronkowski’s rookie year. In 2009, they lost in the wild-card round. In 2008, the year Tom Brady was hurt, they missed the playoffs. So Gronkowski sort of boosted the Patriots out of a lull in their dynasty. The good news is that Gronkowski is retired. The bad news is that the Steelers’ inability to beat Brady at Gillette Stadium began when Gronkowski was entering junior high school.

Patriots, 30-21 (0-1)

Week 2


The Steelers better win this game, because in Week 3 they go to the West Coast, where they are 2-9 since 2003. Don’t sleep on the Seahawks in the NFC West, but the Steelers will gut this one out.

Steelers, 24-16 (1-1)

Week 3

at San Francisco

The Steelers don’t have to worry about the Gronkowski monster in their closet, unless he comes back later in the season. But they do have to worry about George Kittle, who could emerge as the NFL’s top tight end this season. Make that 2-10 since 2003.

49ers, 21-17 (1-2)

Week 4


Marvin Lewis is no longer around to keep the Bengals mediocre, but even if Zac Taylor does turn out to be the next Sean McVay the Steelers pull this one out and avoid a 1-3 start.

Steelers, 31-10 (2-2)

Week 5


The Ravens enter 2019 with some questions. Can Earl Thomas be the heart and soul of the defense with Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley gone? Can rookie receivers Marquise Brown and/or Miles Boykin make an immediate impact, because the Ravens don’t have much else in that department. Can Lamar Jackson be a real NFL quarterback? Despite all that uncertainty, the Steelers will have to go to the wall to beat this team as always.

Steelers, 15-13 (3-2)

Week 6

at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have lost their shine as a Super Bowl contender with the Melvin Gordon mess and the injury to safety Derwin James, an All-Pro last year as a rookie. This will be the Steelers’ first trip to Los Angeles in 25 years. It would be nice if the Chargers still were in San Diego, because that’s the only West Coast city where the Steelers have won in the last 20 years. It’s the only place where Ben Roethlisberger has won in the Pacific time zone, and that was back in 2005. The last Steelers quarterback to win on the West Coast? Michael Vick. And it will stay that way. Make that 2-11 since 2003.

Chargers, 28-23 (3-3)

Week 8


The Steelers will come off a bye for a home game against what could be the NFL’s worst team. The sad thing is, even if the Steelers lost this game it might not top their 2014 home loss to the Buccaneers as the worst upset they’ve suffered at Heinz Field. We know all too well the Steelers’ penchant for losing to bad teams. But don’t worry. It won’t happen here.

Steelers, 37-6 (4-3)

Week 9


Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Steelers’ 51-34 shootout victory over the Colts at Heinz Field in 2014, because as it turns out it will be the only face-to-face matchup between Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. The last three times the Steelers have faced the Colts, they’ve encountered Matt Hasselbeck, Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett. They nearly lost to Brissett at Indianapolis in 2017. They’ll beat him a little more comfortably at home.

Steelers, 33-18 (5-3)

Week 10

Los Angeles Rams

Last year we predicted that the Rams and Jaguars will both take a step back after huge leaps forward in 2017. Well, I we were right about one of them. Maybe we were just a year early on the Rams. This will be a shootout between Roethlisberger and Jared Goff.

Steelers, 42-39 (6-3)

Week 11

at Cleveland

The Steelers enter Cleveland on a three-game winning streak, but just as everyone starts to anoint them as Super Bowl contenders, they lose just like they did the last time they went to Cleveland on a Thursday night 10 years ago. They lost that game to a 1-11 Browns team. The Browns will have more than one win at this point, so the loss won’t be as embarrassing.

Browns, 27-20 (6-4)

Week 12

at Cincinnati

The Steelers were down by a point when Brown’s touchdown with 10 seconds left rescued them in their 28-21 win at Cincinnati last year. Let’s not forget how lame the Steelers’ offense looked in Week 17 last year when Brown was wearing a fur coat. There will be times this year when the Steelers miss Brown. This will be one of those times. The Bengals, meanwhile, probably will have A.J. Green back by this time.

Bengals, 23-10 (6-5)

Week 13


Yes, the Browns will be better this year, but the hype train needs to slow down a little bit. They haven’t won at Pittsburgh since 2003. Never losing at home to the Browns during Roethlisberger’s career isn’t too much to ask of the Steelers.

Steelers, 25-9 (7-5)

Week 14

at Arizona

This isn’t quite the West Coast, but the Cardinals will be so putrid that this could turn out to be the Steelers’ obligatory pratfall for the season. Yup, TV screens all over Western Pennsylvania will be kicked and thrown … and those who do smash their flatscreens will miss an epic comeback.

Steelers, 30-27, OT (8-5)

Week 15


At 8-5 the Steelers probably can control their own destiny, but these last three games won’t be easy. Josh Allen could emerge as an upper-tier quarterback this season, but the last Bills quarterback to win at Pittsburgh will have coached the Colts there in Week 9. And after Week 15 Frank Reich still will be the last Bills quarterback to win in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ defense starts to come of age.

Steelers, 20-0 (9-5)

Week 16

at New York Jets

Here’s the answer to our trivia question. The Jets are the only other team to draft a defensive player in the first round seven years in a row. They did it eight years in a row from 2010 to 2017. They had been pretty solid on that side of the ball before slumping to 25th in yards allowed each of the last two years. Is there any other story line regarding the Jets? Oh, that’s right. The Le’Veon Bell Revenge Game. Unfortunately for Bell, he’ll be running into the Steelers’ defense at a bad time.

Steelers, 21-7 (10-5)

Week 17

at Baltimore

And so with a win at Baltimore, the Steelers could take the AFC North here. If they lose, they’ll have to root for the Bengals to beat the Browns at home. The Ravens, meanwhile, will have nothing to play for at this point except spoiler. The Steelers close out the regular season with five straight wins and edge out the Browns to take the division.

Steelers, 17-3 (11-5)

AFC divisional round

Kansas City

The Patriots (who else?) will be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and the Steelers will get the other bye. The Chiefs will be the No. 3 seed and the Texans the No. 4 seed. The wild-card teams will be the Jaguars (No. 5) and Browns (No. 6). The Chiefs will take care of the Browns in the wild-card round to earn a trip to Pittsburgh.

In this predicted scenario, the Steelers allowed just 10 points in the last three regular-season games, and let’s throw in a scoreless second half in Arizona in Week 14 with the Steelers coming back from a 27-7 deficit.

The problem is that Patrick Mahomes will be coming to Pittsburgh. He won’t slice and dice the Steelers defense the way he did in Week 2 last season, but the Steelers still won’t be able to come up with enough stops to survive this one.

Brown might be unemployed by January and throwing furniture off the top of buildings while wearing a fur coat, but the Curse of Facebook Live will linger. The Steelers will fall to 0-3 in playoff games since Brown’s infamous stunt after the 2016 playoff win in Kansas City.

If the defense picks up where it leaves off at the end of 2019, it’ll give the Steelers a real chance to win one more title before Roethlisberger retires.

Chiefs, 24-21

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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