While power rankings have no practical effect on the real world, they do serve as sort of a time capsule of the development of the calendar, whether it’s in the offseason or while the games are being played. With the heavy lifting of free agency now out of the way, ESPN published its latest NFL power rankings at the end of March.
And the Pittsburgh Steelers fared about as well in the NFL Nation’s eyes as they did in Dan Hanzus’ analysis, who is the reporter who puts together the power rankings for NFL.com. The latter outlet ranked them 10th, while ESPN’s poll has them checking in at 11, noting that the best offseason move for the team was moving on from offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Beat writer Brooke Pryor writes:
Nothing about the offense was working down the stretch — the Steelers finished last in rushing yards and in the bottom half of the league in passing yards — and Fichtner often lacked the creativity necessary to jump-start things. It’s clear the Steelers need a different voice calling the plays, but it remains to be seen whether Matt Canada will be the right one to lead the offensive turnaround. Even so, the Steelers needed to make a dramatic change offensively. Even though they’re keeping the same quarterback and receiving weapons, tweaking the scheme and bringing in new ideas are moves in the right direction.
While I tried to defend Fichtner for as long as it was reasonable—the offense posted strong numbers in his first season, including fantastic efficiency in the red zone, a long-held issue—it became glaringly obvious in 2020 that his offense was too limiting. And he no longer had the excuse of novice quarterbacks like he did in 2019.
It wasn’t an easy move, as they are long-time friends, and he was a part of Mike Tomlin’s original coaching staff in 2007, but he made the hard decision to let Fichtner go this offseason, promoting quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to the role of offensive coordinator.
I’m really not sure where others are at this point, but I remain optimistic about Canada’s ability, or at least potential, to enact meaningful change for the offense in a positive way. He stands to be perhaps the most creative offensive coordinator Ben Roethlisberger has had, and hopefully he can get the most out of his final year.
For those who might be wondering, the Baltimore Ravens were ranked fifth in these power rankings, with the Cleveland Browns seventh, so the teams who finished second and third in the AFC North are ranked ahead of the team that won the division. The Cincinnati Bengals sit at 28, which is probably no surprise to one of their former cornerbacks.