Pro Football Focus is giving their best crack at predicting the win/loss ranges for all 32 teams this season. What a team’s record could look like in a best and worst case scenario. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, PFF sees a wide variety of outcomes.
On the low-end of things, the 10 percentile outcome, they predict the Steelers could finish with an ugly 5-11 record. How could that happen? If Ben Roethlisberger is no longer Big Ben and the defense fails to create the takeaways they did a year ago.
“Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the same guy upon his return. Either he is rendered unavailable by another injury or he continues the downward trend we saw from 2017 (86.5 PFF grade) to 2018 (78.2 PFF grade)… The turnovers they secured in bunches in 2019 aren’t there anymore, and their success in close games swings in the opposite direction.”
It’s a fair overall assessment. News of Roethlisberger’s rehab has been nothing but positive so far but they’ve been low pressure environments and not even Mike Tomlin has seen #7 throw a pass yet. Despite Kevin Colbert’s unwavering optimism, Roethlisberger is still a 38 year old coming off major elbow surgery.
Before the season begins, we’ll explore if the defense’s takeaway numbers could regress and to what level. Though the defense still should play at a high level, it’s hard to see them record 38 turnovers again. The last team to do that in consecutive years was the 2004-2005 Carolina Panthers.
On the high end of things, they see the Steelers finishing 10-6 in the 90th percentile of outcomes, having success for basically the opposite reasons as above. Roethlisberger is successful and the defense continues its stellar play.
“Roethlisberger’s return makes this offense viable again, which is all it needs to be with one of the better defenses in the NFL returning…The secondary, anchored by Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, continues to build on its strong play, and very few teams have much success against the unit as a whole.”
Given the Steelers went 8-8 last year with a miserable offense, it’s sure hard to see the team finish with a worse record than a year ago. These projections are a little surprising. A low-end of 7-9 to high end of 12-4 seems more realistic if you’re creating parameters.
Around the AFC North, the Ravens low-end comes in at 8-8 with a best-case of 13-3. The Bengals have a 4-12 to 9-7 range while the Browns range from 6-10 to 11-5. That’s surprisingly a better range of outcomes than the Steelers.