Certain things haven’t changed from a year ago in terms of how others view the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, the conversations being had this offseason should feel pretty familiar. There was a lot of ‘if’s and qualifications in every analysis, generally being seen as one of the teams who could most go in either direction—either contending for a Super Bowl or for a top-10 draft pick.
NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund doesn’t see this year’s Steelers team much differently, as she wrote in her win projection analysis of each team in the league, though her ultimate projection comes out on the conservative end of the spectrum. She writes:
The most volatility on the board goes to the Steelers, who could easily win at least 10 games behind 39-year-old QB Ben Roethlisberger and a defense that ranked third in the NFL or also end up under seven wins. Offensive line play flags as a big question following the departures of longtime left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (signed with the Ravens) and center Maurkice Pouncey (retired).
Frelund ultimately concludes that the Steelers’ projected win total is at 7.7, which in a 17-game season is obviously even worse than usual. That win total is 11th in the AFC, and third in the AFC North, with the Baltimore Ravens (10.8) and the Cleveland Browns (10.5) projected to have the third- and fourth-most wins, respectively.
The Kansas City Chiefs (11.9) and the Buffalo Bills (11.1), both of whom the Steelers will have to play this season, finish atop the AFC. As for the other North squad, the Cincinnati Bengals have a win total projection of 6.3—which is just one spot below Pittsburgh.
So what do you make of Frelund’s analytic data? Is it too conservative for the Steelers? Even our biggest cynics might not be liable to describe it as too generous. After all, it’s been quite a long time since they have last lost nine games in a single season.
Pittsburgh’s unusual amount of changes this offseason makes things more difficult to project. They have lost a lot of important players, like Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Maurkice Pouncey, and Alejandro Villanueva, but they have also made some notable changes to the coaching staff that could ultimately be a positive.
They are also counting on major contributions from their rookie class, particularly their top three picks in running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth, and center Kendrick Green. Fourth-round pick Dan Moore, Jr. may also be in competition for a starting job out of the gate, so this class will have a pretty big say in what the Steelers are able to do in their rookie year.