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Five Steelers With the Most to Prove This Season

These five Steelers have paychecks and roster spots on the line in 2020.

There is not even an official confirmation that we'll see football in 2020. One has to think the season will at least get underway. Whether an entire season of NFL football happens remains to be seen.

However, this isn't going to stop anyone from treating this like a normal season that everyone has been gearing up for since the Kansas City Chiefs rightfully took home the Lombardi Trophy.

As a team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot to prove in 2020. The defense carried them for much of the season until they seemingly burnt out late after seeing the field entirely too much over the final 12 games. Obviously, the quarterback situation from last season is one everyone would like to forget.

Individually, many Steelers have a lot to prove this season. Chiefly among them is Ben Roethlisberger.

Coming off the injury at his age is certainly going to be a pivotal point for the organization as a whole. Thus, I've decided to omit him from the list I'm going to compile as his inclusion seemed rather obvious.

Instead, we will focus on five other Steelers who have a lot to prove to themselves, the organization, and the league as a whole as some of these players are heading into a contract year.

Without further ado, let's tackle this list.

James Conner

It's been a storybook beginning to Conner's NFL career. After attending the University of Pittsburgh and playing college games at Heinz Field, the Steelers used their compensatory third-round draft choice on Conner in 2017.

Now, Conner enters the final season of his rookie deal in uncertain waters. If he performs well, he'll likely price himself out of Pittsburgh. Another disappointing and injury-riddled season will make the Steelers decision to let him walk rather easily. It really is up to him.

When healthy, Conner has proven to be a very serviceable running back. His bruising style complements the Steelers' backfield rather well.

Questions about his health will be the biggest thing he must answer. As unfortunate as it is, Conner's cancer during his college years may have taken a long term toll on his body.

Conner, however, seems noticeably leaner and fit heading into the 2020 football season. The quarantine and COVID-19 pandemic allowed him to focus on getting himself ready.

If he stays healthy, expect a big season in what could be Conner's final in the black and gold.

Terrell Edmunds

The Steelers' first-round pick in 2018 is quickly becoming a hot topic around the Steel City. When the Steelers selected him, many questioned the selection. The Steelers were clearly talent starved at the safety position and felt Edmunds could fit.

However, he wasn't widely seen as a first-round selection. Many even surmised that he still would've been there when the Steelers' second-round choice came around.

Regardless, here we are. Edmunds has been disappointing in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. The acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick has certainly helped mask some of Edmunds' deficiencies in the defensive backfield.

Edmunds isn't much of a ballhawk and has struggled to tackle at times in his brief NFL career.

Heading into year three, Edmunds needs to be able to make more plays on the ball. Teams refused to throw at Fitzpatrick over the last half of the season, which is understandable. If the trend continues, that means Edmunds will be picked on more frequently. He needs to step up to the plate and prove his pick was warranted.

Bud Dupree

No longer are people questioning whether Dupree can play. Last season, he answered that with a resounding yes. The coaching staff finally unleashed him to rush the quarterback instead of using him to drop into coverage.

What Dupree will have to prove is precisely how much money he is worth.

Dupree signed his franchise tender for $15.8 million after the sides could not agree on a long-term deal. It's almost a guarantee the Steelers won't be the team paying Dupree's salary in 2021. They're going to have to resign T.J. Watt eventually, and he'll cost a robust amount of money. The Steelers' two edge rushers can't tie up all of their cap space.

Dupree knows he is in a contract year. He'll be motivated to show the Steelers why he deserves the money and what they potentially could be without next season.

Drafting Alex Highsmith as high as they did, left the writing on the wall for Dupree. He'll play his final season in Pittsburgh and, with any luck, have a lucrative long-term deal to sign in free agency with another team.

Zach Banner

The eligible receiver downfield became a cult hero in Pittsburgh in 2019. While he never caught a pass, Banner made his impact on the fan base.

Following the retirement of Ramon Foster, the fourth-year veteran has a chance to start. If Matt Feiler makes the move to guard, Banner could start at right tackle. He'll have to beat out fellow lineman Chukwuma Okorafor for the job.

Banner saw 214 snaps last season, the most of his NFL career.

Luckily for him, he seems to have the inside track to start. However, underperformance in camp could quickly move him back to the role he served in last season. An eligible receiver downfield who has a roaring crowd behind him…

You know, in an empty Heinz Field.

Vance McDonald

I've personally been a fan of McDonald back into his San Francisco days. When the Steelers acquired him, I was relatively excited. However, I hadn't realized what kind of contract he carried, either.

At $7 million a year, McDonald's injury history, coupled with the high cap number, doesn't make for a great mix.

His numbers took a hit last season, but so did most of the offense with Roethlisberger out. Over the years, Roethlisberger has shown his willingness to keep the tight ends involved in the offense if he could rely on them. So depending on the amount of time McDonald sees on the field, he could have himself a solid season.

The Steelers did sign Eric Ebron this offseason, as well. As much as it is an insurance move, the Steelers also did it to spark competition among the two. In sports, competition brings out the best in everyone.

If McDonald has another underwhelming season and Ebron flourishes and stays healthy, McDonald could be out of a job by the time the 2021 season rolls around next fall.

Cody Flavell is a Contributor with AllSteelers. Follow Cody on Twitter @Cody_625, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.