As I’m certain you do in joining me, I found myself waiting with bated breath all offseason to get Adam Schein’s take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the upcoming season. And he finally delivered, uninspiringly, in an article for the league’s website published yesterday in which he examined the playoff cases for nine different bubble teams (because nine rhymes with Schein, you know).
The Steelers were the seventh of the nine teams that he examined, in a simple ‘case for’ and ‘case against’ format, with an ensuing ‘early take’ conclusion. And he came away unimpressed with the net gains and losses for Pittsburgh this year. “This feels like 8-8 and third place in the AFC North”, he wrote. “Another long and cold January in Pittsburgh”.
Last season, of course, they finished with a 9-6-1 record, which was just a half-game shy of making it into the playoffs. They held control of their own destiny up to their Week 16 loss against the New Orleans Saints, one of four losses that they suffered in the final six weeks after posting a 7-2-1 record through 10 games.
In his stated case for, Schein granted that Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback, and claimed the team’s offensive line to be the best in football, awarding credit for the acquisition as well of Devin Bush. He noted that JuJu Smith-Schuster is “more talented than most people seem to realize”, while also offering that the headaches brought on by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are gone.
But his entire case against consisted of Brown and Bell being gone, without even mentioning the fact that Bell, in fact, was already effectively gone last year. And they had a Pro Bowl running back in James Conner without him.
Schein described the loss of these two players as “one of the biggest talent drains in one offseason I’ve ever seen”, and perhaps that is true on a certain level, but one also has to entertain the reality that Bell was not a part of the contributing team already last season, and that, in spite of Brown’s talents, they already have another Pro Bowler at his position.
I absolutely see the Steelers going better than .500 this year, and in fact they should win the division, perhaps even secure another first-round bye for the postseason. There is no reason that they should not be as competitive this year as they have been at any other time since they last appeared in the Super Bowl in 2010.
The Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens were two of the other nine teams that Schein examined. He predicted the Browns to win the AFC North, noting Freddie Kitchens and his staff. For the Ravens, he saw them winning nine games, calling himself “a huge Lamar Jackson fan”, but added that he would have to see how the young quarterback develops before he decides to put Baltimore in the playoffs. Of course, it’s his prediction of nine wins that will determine whether or not they go to the playoffs.