In what should come as no surprise, Sports Illustrated is predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers to run away with the AFC North Title yet again. The site unveiled their NFL record predictions for 2018, pitting the Steelers in first place in the North with an 11-5 record.
Writing up Pittsburgh, they noted how the offense remains almost entirely intact and that Randy Fichtner’s offense should be similar to what Todd Haley ran. Defensively, there’s optimism the unit will be improved.
“The Steelers did well to pick up linebacker Jon Bostic in free agency and nab safety Terrell Edmunds in the draft.”
Each team was given a “pivotal” week of the season that would help shape the path their team takes. For Pittsburgh, that’s Week 11 when they travel to Jacksonville.
“The Steelers got thoroughly out-everything’d by the Jags in their two meetings last season. Jacksonville forced seven turnovers, while the Steelers could create just one. The 45–42 final score from their playoff contest is not indicative of how totally in control the Jags were for more than three-and-a-half quarters of the game. Now Pittsburgh has to go on Jacksonville’s turf in hopes of not making it three straight embarrassments.”
SI also predicted Jacksonville to finish 11-5 and top the AFC South.
The rest of the AFC North, according to this outlook, looks ultra-bleak. No other team finished even above 6-10, Baltimore and Cincinnati tying for second place. The Browns pick up four wins but remain in the cellar.
Ultimately, and this is an obvious thing to say, these rankings don’t matter much at all. But it shows the perception of not just where the Steelers are at but how woeful the rest of the North is too. Anything less than an AFC North crown for the Steelers will be a massive disappointment.
Is 11-5 a fair record? Sure, I don’t think anyone will disagree. 10-6 or 11-5 is the default position for pretty much any Steelers’ fan, myself included. That also seems to be SI’s position. Aside from the 13-3 Patriots, the Jags and Los Angeles Chargers were also predicted to finish 1st in their division with an 11-5 record.