The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How likely is it that the Steelers finish last in the AFC North in 2021?
Though they finished with more wins than anybody else in the division, many are skeptical about the Steelers and their ability to be successful in the near future. There are many reasons, of course, to have valid concerns about the state of the franchise, not the least of which being who will play at quarterback and at what level.
But how do they stack up against the other teams in the division? After all, the AFC North sent three teams into the postseason this year, with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns advancing as wildcards, and both went on to the Divisional Round, but lost over the weekend.
Both of those franchises have young quarterbacks whom they believe are the future. But so do the Cincinnati Bengals, with Joe Burrow being the best prospect off all of them coming out of college. He showed promise during his rookie season, which ended prematurely due to a torn ACL.
Given the upward-pointing arrow for the other three teams and arguably the Steelers’ pointing downward, could we conceivably see Pittsburgh finish fourth—and thus last—in the AFC North? The last time that the Steelers finished last in the division was in 1988 in a 5-11 season. The last time they finished third was in 2012.