Who doesn’t love a good power rankings list? Or even a bad one for that matter? At the very least, they provide fodder for conversation, and for this particular offseason, it’s really more difficult than it has been for many many years to really ascertain what is going on inside of teams.
Nobody was even practicing until training camp opened, and now our coverage of training camp is very limited. Only a small pool of reporters that rotate daily attend practice each day and provide some crib notes about what happened that day. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp coverage in particular has been supremely stingy on any meaningful details that would be in plain view of anybody in attendance—which we usually are.
Nevertheless, in spite of the lack of information, we’ve seen a number of outlets churning out fresh power rankings lately, ESPN being one of the most recent, and they have the Steelers checking in at 13 most immediately behind the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills, and then the Minnesota Vikings squeezing into the back end of the top 10.
In case you were wondering, the Baltimore Ravens, who posted a 14-2 record last season and a 20-3 record since Lamar Jackson entered the starting lineup—the two-time consecutive AFC North champions—are ranked second behind the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Cleveland Browns are ranked 20th, the Cincinnati Bengals 30th.
Also included in the rankings is one player for each team who is deemed to be on the ‘hot seat’ this year. for the Steelers, that player is fourth-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, according to the outlet’s Steelers beat writer, Brooke Pryor. She writes:
A handful of Steelers offensive players are on the hot seat, but the temperature is the highest on Smith-Schuster’s. The second-round pick flourished as the No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown but faltered in his first chance to break out as the top weapon. Some of that was out of his control, due to injuries to both Ben Roethlisberger and himself, but it leaves Smith-Schuster playing the final year of his rookie deal without a long-term contract in place. The cap-strapped team faces tough financial decisions after the season, and another poor year from Smith-Schuster could make at least one of those decisions easy.
A healthy season from himself and Roethlisberger should cure what ails him, but that won’t help the Steelers keep him in Pittsburgh beyond 2020, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in March, and quite frankly, Pittsburgh is hard up against the cap thanks to the economic impact of Covid-19.
What do you think? Is 13 a fair ranking for the Steelers entering the 2020 season, given the unknowns? They did go 7-4 after a 1-4 start thanks to a great defense, and with bad quarterback play, but Roethlisberger himself is a question mark coming back from a surgically-repaired throwing elbow.