Now that training camp has finally begun, it’s prediction time here at Steelers Sanctuary. Here’s a stab at what we think will happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019:

Unexpected roster inclusion: Devlin Hodges

Call me crazy but i just have a feeling on this player. I included him in my original 53 man roster prediction (Steelers 53 man roster prediction: Version 1), and none of the early reports are doing anything to change my mind. This is a kid who threw for 4283 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior year at Samford. Granted its a small school, but those are incredible numbers at any level.

Unexpected roster exclusion: Ryan Switzer

The way I see it, there is a three way race for the returner/slot receiver role on this team between Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers, and Diontae Spencer. Switzer has the most trade value of the three and will be dealt off to thin the glut at that position. Which will lead us to my next category which is…..

Most Surprising: Diontae Spencer

The route for Diontae Spencer to make the team initially will be as a return specialist. Once he establishes that, watch out for him as a big play threat on an offense that will sorely need it. He will beat out both Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer for the returner/slot receiver role and be very successful at both.

Most Dissapointing: Mark Barron

He was only brought in as insurance in case the team was unable to get a linebacker in the draft. Barron’s playing will decrease every week as Devin Bush gets more comfortable with the defense. He will become a pretty expensive backup, possibly as soon as week one.

Comeback Player: Mike Hilton

Hilton got hurt early on in 2018, and was never quite the same afterwards. Fully healthy again, he can resume his rise to becoming one of the premier slot corners in the league.

Team MVP (offense): Ju Ju Smith Schuster

All signs point to Ju Ju taking over as the lead dog on this offense. No longer under the shadow of Antonio Brown, the passing game will now run through him. The problem with that is Smith-Schuster will also be the main focus of all opposing defenses. The team should be able to find another receiver or two to take some of the attention off of Ju Ju. If that happens, look for a monster season to follow.

Team MVP (defense): TJ Watt

The arrow is pointing straight up in terms of where TJ Watts career trajectory is heading. Watt nearly doubled his sack total (7 to 13) from year one to year two. We could be in for a league defensive MVP type season in year three for Watt. The 2017 draft is turning out to be the crowning jewel in Kevin Colbert’s career.

Most improved: Sean Davis

No player has been moved around more over the past few seasons than Sean Davis. The Steelers inability to settle the safety position has caused Davis’ career to stall. Another season along side Terrell Edmunds should provide the stability he needs. With that in mind, Davis should be comfortable enough to let his considerable talents take over. That in turn could mean a big season for the Steelers safety.

2018 Starter most vulnerable: Matt Feiler

Matt Feiler ended 2018 as the starting right tackle, but he may not start 2019 in the same role. That’s not a knock on him, rather a statement on the depth at that position.2018 third round pick Chukwuma Okorafor will be battling with him all offseason for the starting job. Besides him, there’s also Gerald Hawkins and David Banner with their eyes set on the right tackle spot. Feiler will need to be at his very best to keep a hold on his job for 2019.

Steelers record: 10-6

The big question entering this season is how will the Steelers do in coping with the losses of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in successive seasons. That’s an awful lot of firepower on offense to make up. The hope is the defense will be better, along with a strong running game to compensate for the losses. The drama that left with Bell and Brown can only help this team as well. Admittedly 10-6 is a bit of an optimistic prediction for a team that missed the playoffs last year, and now have lost their best player. I’m betting on the new core of superstars like Ju Ju, Conner, Watt, and even Bush will be ready to propel this team back into the playoffs in 2019.

Quick hitters:

Touchdown leader: Vance McDonald

Interception leader: Sean Davis

Receiving Leader: Ju Ju Smith Schuster

2nd receiving yards: Diontae Johnson

Sack leader: TJ Watt

Second in sacks: Bud Dupree

Rushing leader: James Conner

Second rusher: Benny Snell jr.

Passing yards: Ben Roethlisberger (or the season is lost)

Tackles: Devin Bush