Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers offense will start the 2016 regular season without having the services of running back Le’Veon Bell, tight end Ladarius Green and wide receiver Martavis Bryant available to them, several major media outlets are predicting this year’s team to strongly compete for a championship.
On Wednesday, Espn.com released their latest power rankings for the 2016 NFL season and their group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities collectively have the Steelers ranked second-overall behind only the Seattle Seahawks.
The past two seasons rank as the highest-scoring seasons in Steelers’ franchise history. The Steel Curtain might be no more, but with an offense like that, they’d probably still win with linen curtains.
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com and Cameron DaSilva of FoxSports.com also recently released their power rankings for the 20156 NFL season and they have the Steelers ranked 7th and 6th respectively.
Unless you have been watching Pittsburgh Maulers games on video cassette to get your football fix the last seven months, you likely are sick of hearing about suspensions. So I won’t tell you that’s why Pittsburgh is seventh. Let’s talk defense. Bud Dupree going on IR doesn’t help, but look for this Steelers unit to be improved in Keith Butler’s second year as DC. Pittsburgh ranked 11th in points allowed during a transitional year in 2015. The secondary remains a factory defect, but this group overall might be sturdy enough to win it all.
While Pittsburgh will be without Le’Veon Bell for the first three games, it will merely be a small bump in the road. Cincinnati is their only real threat in the first three weeks, and upon Bell’s return, the Steelers will return to form. They’re a team to watch in the AFC.
While the Steelers will indeed be without the services of Bell for the first three weeks of the regular season due to a suspension, the team’s running game should be in good hands with veteran DeAngelo Williams toting the rock behind a great offensive line. Williams, in case you forgot, produced nearly 1,300 total yards of offense and 11 touchdowns last season, his first in Pittsburgh.
As for the absence of Green, who the Steelers signed during free agency to replace the retiring Heath Miller, the Steelers hope to get him on the field at some point after the first six games of the regular season. While not having him to start the regular season looks daunting on paper, the emergence of second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers, combined with the expected progression of second-year tight Jesse James, should help the Steelers offense overcome not having Green on the field. While the deep threat of Bryant will be missed the entire season due to a suspension, veteran wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton, along with second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates, are certainly all capable of collectively filling his missing fast shoes and deep play-making ability.
Whether or not the Steelers will be able to make a strong run at seventh Lombardi Trophy in 2016 will mostly likely revolve around how their defense plays and that unit will start the regular season without the services of two second-year players, outside linebacker Bud Dupree and cornerback Senquez Golson, as both won’t likely be able to contribute until sometime after the team’s bye week. However, the 2016 version of the Steelers defense does figure to get contributions right out of chute from two of their top their draft picks this year as both safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave should to see quite extensive playing time throughout the year beginning Monday night against the Washington Redskins. Additionally, rookie first-round draft pick, cornerback Artie Burns, and newly acquired cornerback Justin Gilbert, a former first round selection himself, could start seeing the field on defense during the first half of the regular season.
Yes, while the Steelers will enter the 2016 regular season with a few big concerns on both sides of the football, this team will still certainly be expected to make a strong run at a championship. Their roster includes quite a bit of highly drafted talent made up of 12 former first-rounders, 6 former second-rounders and 4 players who were originally drafted in the third round.
Barring any significant injuries at key positions, there’s no reason to think that this year’s 2016 Steelers can’t make a strong run at a championship this season and thus it’s no wonder they’re ranked so high in the aforementioned start-of-the-season major media power rankings.