Whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers are being overestimated, underestimated, or estimated just right, remains to be seen by the end of this season. What we do know is that there aren’t a ton of analysts out there who are particularly high on the prospects of the reigning AFC North champions successfully defending their crown.
Include CBS Sports’ eminent Jason La Canfora among those who aren’t counting on the Steelers going far, as he featured them on the wrong side of a ‘Leaping’ and ‘Falling’ piece for the outlet. He writes on Pittsburgh’s plight heading into the 2021 season:
Every bit of empirical data and every hour of film review painted a very bleak picture of where this offense was headed with Ben Roethlisberger hanging on by a thread. Hard to see this ending well, and the offensive line is a shell of what it once was, too. This franchise has staved off a losing season in ways most could only dream of, but this league will eventually pull everyone down, and this roster is not good enough to overcome the shortcomings moving the ball downfield. I’m getting worried about all the tread on the defensive line as well.
Cameron Heyward may be aging, but he was still an All-Pro last season. Stephon Tuitt, who should have been at least a Pro Bowler a year ago, will only turn 28 on May 23. Of course, there is also Tyson Alualu, approaching a point in which he’s toying with Father Time. But they’ve made investments in recent years with Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis, and Isaiahh Loudermilk, who have the potential to develop.
Ben Roethlisberger is who he is, but one factor that is routinely ignored by the analysts is the impact that changes on the coaching staff can have. Moving on from Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator and replacing him with Matt Canada has the potential to have a significant affect on the offense this year, in ways we’re not equipped to fully understand just yet, since we’ve never seen him do it at the professional level.
And there is reason to believe that the offensive line can be better than last season, particularly in the run game. Zach Banner is an improvement in that area, and Kevin Dotson can be, as well. Kendrick Green, for all we know, could be an instant upgrade from Maurkice Pouncey’s final season.
And there, too, you have a change in coaches. Pittsburgh promoted Adriran Klemm, and he has his coaching priorities as well with a focus on physicality that many believe has been their biggest shortcoming. They also have potentially the most complete set of skill position players in their history, perhaps even in the NFL right now. This team can surprise people if they reach their potential.