Apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bold trade up in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft was not quite bold enough, because Las Vegas still gives the Cleveland Browns better odds of reaching the postseason, winning the AFC North, and winning the Super Bowl than Pittsburgh.
In fact, the Steelers were given only the 10th-best odds league-wide to win the Super Bowl by Westgate, behind the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears, and of course the Browns.
Of course that group includes the final four teams of last season in the Patriots, Rams, Saints, and Chiefs. It also includes the 2018 Super Bowl champions in the Eagles. The quarterback prowess of Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, respectively, figure to drive the Colts’ and Packers’ odds, while the Bears have quietly built a strong roster. The Browns—hey, they almost posted a non-losing record for the first time in a decade.
The Steelers, along with the Browns and Packers, represent the teams that did not even reach the postseason last year, yet are considered in the top 10 to win the Super Bowl in 2019. Pittsburgh had the best record of them, finishing 9-6-1, but that was after getting off to a 7-2-1 start that saw them lose four of their six final games.
Outside of coming off a season in which they were not in the playoffs, the other major headline for Pittsburgh as been the losses of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. While Bell was already gone in 2018—and his replacement, James Conner, went to the Pro Bowl—it’s been a long time since this offense has had to function without Brown for more than a couple of games.
The truth is that there is a lot we don’t know about the Steelers in 2019 that we won’t know until we see it on the field. Perhaps things we still won’t know for sure until they are tested in the postseason, and it’s not a lock that they get that opportunity so quickly.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was a top-10 wide receiver in his own right last season, catching 111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns, but he will now have to be the one getting all the attention, so it remains to be seen how that will affect his game, and thus the Steelers’ chances of finding success this year.
Another big difference from last season, however, is on the defensive side of the ball, where they significantly bolstered the inside linebacker and cornerback positions with the additions of Mark Barron and Steven Nelson in free agency and Devin Bush and Justin Layne in the draft.
The hope is that the defense can pick up any slack the offense gives up and then some. Five of the seven games the team failed to win last year resulted in the defense giving up the go-ahead points in the fourth quarter.