The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How many wins will the AFC North champion have in 2018?
The race for the AFC North following Sunday’s results is down to just two teams: the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Even if Pittsburgh loses its last two games—even if the Steelers, Ravens, and Cleveland Browns all end up with 8-7-1 records in a three-way tie—Cleveland can’t win it.
So we know that the AFC North champion will have at least eight wins, but they could have up to 10 wins as well. In order to get up to 10, either the Steelers or Ravens will have to overcome one of their biggest tests of the season this weekend.
Pittsburgh will be down south to visit the 12-2 New Orleans Saints, while the 11-3 Los Angeles Chargers will host the Ravens. Both of their opponents are favored to win those games, unsurprisingly, but if either of them win, they will have a decent shot at hitting 10 wins.
The Steelers end the season with a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, whose offense has been decimated with injuries, particularly in the passing game. That would be a tough loss to handle if they can’t pull that off.
The Ravens’ final game at home against the Browns is a little more challenging, especially considering Cleveland has already beaten them this season, and they are a better team than they were at the time. but the Ravens are also 4-1 with Lamar Jackson at quarterback.
The AFC North is pretty simple. Either the Steelers win as many or more games as the Ravens, or Baltimore wins the division. The Ravens could also finish with a tie and either a record of 9-6-1 or 8-7-1 and would still lose to the Steelers.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the winner of the AFC North this season will have at least nine wins, but 10 will be difficult. Should it end up being fewer than 10, it will be the worst record the division winner has ever had, and the worst going back to 1990 in the AFC Central when the Bengals had a 9-7 record.