There is not a single thing in the world more exciting than NFL power rankings made just days after the Super Bowl. I know that’s a view pretty much universally held around the country, and so I’m happy to tell you that I have good news for you, faithful readers: we already have our second ridiculously early power ranking to discuss.
Earlier in the week, ESPN was the first outlet to dips its toes into the meaningless early February power rankings. They ended up putting the Pittsburgh Steelers slotted 15th, which is about where they finished the 2019 season. They went 8-8, starting and finishing the season with three-loss streaks, going 8-2 in between.
Not to be outdone, the league’s own website followed up with their own ridiculously early power rankings. This time, Pittsburgh fared worse, though only slightly. They ended up being ranked 16th, about as dead center as you can get. Dan Hanzus writes:
The Steelers have now gone two straight seasons without a playoff berth, an eternity for a franchise that has been a model of consistency in the Big Ben and Mike Tomlin era. Getting Roethlisberger back from the elbow injury that torpedoed his 2019 season is obviously the No. 1 path to improvement for Pittsburgh. There’s still some uncertainty around the quarterback, but consider it a surprise if Roethlisberger isn’t taking the field with his teammates in Week 1. The biggest free agent priority? Retaining former first-round pick Bud Dupree, who broke out this season with 16 tackles for loss and a career-high 11.5 sacks. Dupree and T.J. Watt formed a fearsome twosome on the edges — the cap-strapped Steelers may have to make some tough decisions if they want to bring back Dupree on a long-term deal.
This is a pretty accurate and safe summary of the Steelers’ current situation for a national writer, though I’m not sure how tough the Steelers’ decisions will be. They can easily cut players like Anthony Chickillo and Mark Barron. If they have to go further, 34-year-old Ramon Foster would be a likely target, especially considering they’ll also want to retain B.J. Finney.
Really, the Steelers’ power rankings are one of the hardest to predict right now, because it depends so much on whether or not Ben Roethlisberger will be available and able to play like a franchise quarterback. if he’s not, then this could be a team in the bottom half of the league.
If he is, however, the Steelers should be considered one of the leading contenders to reach the Super Bowl. They will have to edge out the Baltimore Ravens in their own division, but they did take them into overtime last year with Mason Rudolph, and then with Devlin Hodges, making his NFL debut. The Ravens, for what it’s worth, ranked third on Hanzus’ list.