One thing the Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly not is inconspicuous. As one of the flagship franchises of the biggest sports league in North America, it’s not exactly difficult to find coverage of the team, even if two of their biggest stars in years left over the past few months.
But insofar as it’s even a possibility, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger evidently told KDKA yesterday that he was looking forward to flying under the radar this year. That is perhaps more possible in 2019 than in most years, especially with the Cleveland Browns suddenly stealing the spotlight in the AFC North and being anointed the favorites to win the division even.
Under the radar, underrated, underestimated, frankly I’ll take all of it. I’m easy to please at this point. Just give these guys any kind of fuel that tells them that the outside world doesn’t think they can even make it back to the playoffs, even though they have been to as many playoffs in the past six years as every team in the NFL short of Those Who Will Not Be Named.
Really, once the headlines generated by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell subsided, it has largely been the Browns driving the headlines for the AFC North as second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has quickly become one of the league’s young darlings. He was even recently given sixth-best odds to win the league’s MVP award in 2019. Granted, Patrick Mahomes just did it in his second season after barely playing as a rookie, but still.
Even the Baltimore Ravens, you know, the actual defending division champions, still have that shiny new veneer to them as they head into their first offseason with a new-look offense spearheaded by running quarterback Lamar Jackson, paired with a running back duo of Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. The wide receivers and tight ends have been rebuilt over the past two offseasons as well.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals finally parted ways with Marvin Lewis and have the shiny new Sean McVay-lite in Zac Taylor, hoping that he can take the organization in a new and more prosperous direction. One that doesn’t include Vontaze Burfict anymore and that probably won’t be plagued by the rash of injuries they faced last year.
Following all of this proactive change or newness around them, the Steelers almost seem like old news. They do have one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league. One of the longest-tenured head coaches. And general managers. The list could go on like that. They are the image of stability. It’s boring on the outside.
So let them sleep on Pittsburgh this year. Now, that would be awfully hard to do if they come out of the gates swinging and beat the juggernaut in the first week of the season. Immediately expectations rise to a fevered pitch. But if they lose that game, the journey simply continues. There will be 15 more to play after that.