Throughout July, the Last Word on Sports NFL department has been recognizing the three most recognizable faces for each NFL team. Only active players are being considered in this series. With that being said, we will now focus on the faces of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers.
2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Faces of the Franchise
It is not surprising to have a quarterback listed as the face of a franchise, but when you have a future Hall of Famer at the position it is inevitable. Ben Roethlisberger has held down the quarterback position for virtually his entire career, joining the team as their 11th pick in the 2004 NFL draft. Big Ben owns nearly every career passing record in franchise history. He’s won more games than any previous quarterback in franchise history. Roethlisberger has also added two Super Bowl trophies to the cabinet in three attempts. He’s approaching the end of his career, but you wouldn’t know that based on his numbers last season.
Roethlisberger had 5,129 yards, 34 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and completed 67% of his passes. He also averaged 320.6 yards per game, had a passer rating of 96.5, and a quarterback rating of 73.0. At the age of 36, some of these numbers were among the best of his career. The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2019 season perceived to be a weaker team than they were a year ago. After shedding offensive stars Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers are very young at running back and wide receiver.
However, Ben is still standing. Arguably the best offensive line in the NFL is still very much intact. With so many young guys, Roethlisberger will be expected to help mold them into a cohesive machine. Roethlisberger’s leadership has taken a lot of criticism during last season and this offseason. But with so much criticism and doubt, it should surprise no one if Big Ben makes the 2019 season one of his best yet.
If there is anyone on the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers that people will be watching closely, it’s JuJu Smith-Schuster. Some may be watching to see what exciting things JuJu will do next. Smith-Schuster had an enormous sophomore season as he had 111 receptions, 1,426 yards, and seven touchdowns. The receptions and yards led the team last year and earned JuJu his first ever Pro Bowl nomination. Everyone will also want to see if he can rip off another big play too.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) June 21, 2019
There’s another reason people will be watching JuJu Smith-Schuster with interest. With Brown no longer on the team, JuJu is undoubtedly the top receiver on the team. That’s a big spotlight and responsibility on such a young guy. It has been argued, and rightly so, that JuJu’s production was heavily dependent on Brown drawing double teams. Now, with Brown gone, JuJu will be the focus of opposing defenses. Smith-Schuster is immensely talented and should continue to develop into one of the best receivers in the game.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the faces of the team because of his popularity with fans. Of all the players on the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers, no one is more social media friendly than JuJu. His engaging personality makes him very likable fans of all ages and from any team. His youthfulness is a nice breath of fresh air and certainly makes him the poster child for the young crop of players that have joined the Steelers over the past couple of seasons.
In Pittsburgh, the defense has always been important. Leaders on the defense are just as important as leaders on offense, and Cameron Heyward is no exception. Heyward is the captain, face, and leader of the defense all rolled into one. Drafted by the Steelers with the 31st pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Heyward is the longest-serving member on the defense. He’s been named to back-to-back Pro Bowl teams and was an All-Pro in 2017 as well. When it comes to the defense, if Cam talks, everyone listens.
Last season, Heyward had 51 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 18 quarterback hits, and eight sacks. Production was down slightly from his All-Pro season of 2017, but he was still a force on the defensive line. Heyward and his teammates were nightmares for quarterbacks, as the Steelers tied for the most sacks in the league last season. Heyward’s leadership will be important in turning a young and re-tooled defense into the force the Steelers need. Pittsburgh has young rushers all over the shop and will need Heyward to keep pushing them. For Heyward, if he stays healthy he could finish in the top-5 for sacks in franchise history. Heyward will go down as one of the best defensive linemen in team history, and certainly qualifies as one of the faces of the current Pittsburgh Steelers.
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