With all 32 teams now having their annual OTA practices underway, a quick look at the betting odds at a few online sportsbooks shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t even the current favorites to win the AFC North division in 2019. Instead, the Cleveland Browns are favored to win the division in 2019 and that’s a feat that hasn’t happened since the AFC North was created in 2002. In short, the Steelers are expected by many to battle the Baltimore Ravens for second place in the AFC North in 2019.
Following the Steelers first OTA practice of 2019 on Tuesday, veteran cornerback Joe Haden talked a little bit about the Steelers not currently being perceived as legitimate favorites to even win their own division this upcoming season.
“You know, this team, I feel like they’ve never really been underdogs,” Haden said. “Ever since I’ve been playing against the Steelers for seven years they were never the underdog. So, just having that chip on our shoulder, having people doubting us, I think that’s something that we can take, use to our advantage and just come out here and grind. And it’s all literally about what you’re doing between the lines.”
So, does Haden really feel like the Steelers are an underdog in their own division this upcoming season.
“I do, I do,” Haden said.
The veteran cornerback and former first-round draft pick of the Browns was then quickly asked why he feels that way.
“Just because people always, you know, you hear the outside noises,” Haden explained. “Because usually when it comes to Pittsburgh, they’re always, ‘ah , they’re going to be in the playoffs and just it is what it is. They just basically put us in the playoffs. So, now just hearing people not talk as highly of us has kind of put a chip on people’s shoulder.”
Haden was then asked if he views his teammates having that proverbial chip on their shoulders is a good thing at this time of the offseason and something that can be used to provide an advantage.
“I think that’s a great thing, so we’ve got something to really, really work for,” Haden said.
Being the underdogs in the AFC North entering the 2019 season might not necessarily be a bad thing for the Steelers. Additionally, the Browns being the early favorites to win the division with second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield running the offense will be interesting to watch play out as well.
Sure, the Browns figure to have a better season than they had in 2018, but let’s not forget that this is an organization that last posted a winning record way back in 2007. Mayfield is sure to go through some growing pains in his second season that will include Cleveland having to play four primetime games and two games against the Steelers in a span of three weeks starting in the middle of November.
The Steelers 2019 regular season will get underway with them playing a road game against the New England Patriots, the defensing Super Bowl champions and current favorites to win it all again this season. The Steelers are still 6-point road underdogs way ahead of that game kicking off and that line isn’t likely to move much in either direction, barring significant injuries happening between now and September 8.
AFC North underdogs and all, the Steelers opened up as favorites in 10 of their first 15 regular seasons games for 2019, according to CG Technology, and in two others it’s considered an even line. The only teams currently favored to beat the Steelers in 2019 are the Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and the Browns in the first of two meetings between the two teams. The Browns, on the other hand, are currently installed as underdogs in six of their first 15 regular season games.