Like the rest of you, I have been anxiously waiting for the annual Pro Football Talk power rankings from Mike Florio and on Tuesday they finally hit the internet. Okay, not really, but his rankings are at least a quick read ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp getting underway at the end of this week. After having the Steelers ranked 15th overall to close out the 2018 season, Florio has them ranked 10th overall ahead the team reporting to Latrobe for training camp.
They’re pissed, they’re determined, they’re on the same page, and they’re potentially very dangerous.
While not hard-hitting analysis by any stretch of the imagination, it’s hard to find much wrong with those 14 words that Florio wrote about the 2019 Steelers. I mean, the Steelers do seem somewhat pissed and determined since the 2018 season ended, right? They also seem to be more on the same page from a unified team aspect since the departure of Brown as well. Finally, they’re poised to be a potentially very dangerous team ahead of camp starting thanks to all of the players that are returning and the addition of several new players via free agency and the draft.
That lazy analysis from Florio aside, the main narrative surrounding the 2019 Steelers since March seems to mostly revolve around the team’s offense and its ability to still stay productive after the trading away of wide receiver Antonio Brown. While that’s certainly understandable to some degree, how the Steelers defense plays in 2019 will be even more important, in my opinion. If the Steelers offense is once again forced to drive long fields consistently like last season, the loss of Brown will likely be magnified. However, if the Steelers defense can increase their takeaways from 15 to 25 or more in 2019, the offense almost surely will benefit in the process thanks to a much better average starting field position. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shouldn’t have to throw for 5,000 yards and attempt 600 passes again in 2019 and if that’s the case, the magnitude of the offseason loss of Brown should be diminished some.
The Steelers special teams units will also need to up their contributions in 2019. Not only does that encompass those units producing better field position on punt and kickoff returns, but also their kicker making a higher percentage of make-able field goals. Will that kicker be Chris Boswell, or someone else? We’ll find out in the next six weeks.
Personally, I’m more concerned about the Steelers defense than I am their offense ahead of the team reporting to training camp this year. This isn’t the first time that Roethlisberger has had to work through losing a primary receiving target and while Brown is arguable still the best wide receiver in the NFL, his loss can be overcome if the team’s other key offensive personnel can all stay healthy.
What I just wrote after Florio’s 14 words would have looked much better for the Steelers in his power rankings.
As for the rest of Florio’s quickly-thrown-together 2019 power rankings, he has the three other teams in the AFC North all ranked lower than the Steelers. The Cleveland Browns are ranked 13th overall with the Baltimore Ravens one spot behind them at 14. Florio’s not a big believer in the Cincinatti Bengals as he has them ranked 29th overall.
Not surprisingly, Florio has the New England Patriots ranked first. They are followed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. Last year’s loser of the Super Bowl, the Los Angels Rams, are ranked 7th overall by Florio.
Does Florio have the Steelers ranked too high or too low and should they indeed be listed ahead of both the Browns and the Ravens?