If you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers it’s hard not to be excited about the upcoming 2016 season as the team appears to be poised to make a serious run at obtaining a seventh Lombardi Trophy. While the Steelers failed to win the AFC North last season, several major media outlets are already predicting them to win their division in 2016.
In a recent post on ESPN.com, Football Outsiders creator Aaron Schatz briefly explained why his site’s DVOA methodology currently projects the Steelers winning the AFC North in 2016 with a 12-4 record and ending the regular season as the top seed in the conference.
We currently project Pittsburgh to be the best offense in the league, which makes a lot of sense considering they ranked third in offensive DVOA last year despite getting just 12 games out of Ben Roethlisberger and six out of Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers also have a strong, experienced offensive line that gets Maurkice Pouncey back from a missed season. The defense brings in some new blood with this year’s top two picks (Artie Burns and Sean Davis) plus cornerback Senquez Golson, a 2015 second-rounder who missed his entire rookie year.
Even though the Steelers will be without the services of suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant in 2016, their offense should still have enough playmakers to make up for his loss. Not only are they expected to get running back Le’Veon Bell and center Maurkice Pouncey back healthy in 2016, the addition of free agent tight end Ladarius Green during the offseason should take some pressure off of wide receivers Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton in addition to helping absorb the loss of tight end Heath Miller, who retired this past offseason. Additionally, the Steelers offensive line figures to be one of, if not the best, in the league in 2016.
Even though the Steelers defense figures to have several inexperienced players seeing playing time in 2016, the unit should make positive improvements over last year in what will be Keith Butler’s second season as the team’s defensive coordinator.
While Schatz currently has the Steelers winning the AFC North in 2016, he’s also projecting the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens to both make the playoffs as the two AFC Wild Card teams.
At the bottom of Schatz’s post he explains the methodology used in creating his early offseason projections for the 2016 season.