While they are a weekly staple during the season, power rankings tend to come in waves at key moments during the offseason. The post-draft process is one of those critical tentpole periods in which we begin to be flooded with power rankings again. Today we present you the latest, from Peter King of Football Morning in America.
The Pittsburgh Steelers do not fare particularly well at all in his eyes; in fact, it is the lowest ranking that I can recall seeing so far in the immediate aftermath of the draft. Nineteenth would place them squarely out of the running for a post in the postseason, if it were to be taken to its extreme (and they are the 10th-ranked team in the AFC). He writes:
I can’t unsee the 1-4 Steeler finish to the regular season, with Ben Roethlisberger presiding over a crumbling offense, and then the most embarrassing home playoff loss in Steeler history. (Not the fact that they lost, but just the spectacle of Roethlisberger turning it over four times in the first 20 minutes to Cleveland and falling behind 28-0 to Cleveland and giving up 48 to Cleveland, with the Cleveland coach 130 miles away watching from his basement.) Now a remade offensive line and top pick Najee Harris will try to build a running game—the lack of which ruined 2020 for Pittsburgh—with new coordinator Matt Canada. The Steelers benefited from the league’s second-easiest schedule in 2020 to get off to the 11-0 start, but with Buffalo, Cleveland, Green Bay and Seattle on the schedule by Halloween, no such luck this year. In what could be Big Ben’s last stand, he’s going to need help from his line and backfield to get Pittsburgh to double-digit wins. Oh, and Diontae Johnson catching the ball this season would help too.
The Steelers have the toughest strength of schedule this year, and it really feels particularly earned this time around, as their opponents still look tough on paper — with the only major caveat being if Aaron Rodgers ends up somewhere other than Green Bay. But they still have Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen on the docket. But King also wrote that it was difficult to get a read on Pittsburgh this year. In fact, harder than any other team.
“I think the team that was hardest to place for me in my NFL rankings was Pittsburgh”, he said. I’ll be surprised if the Steelers are really good, but if the offensive line isn’t a disaster and can block for Najee Harris, the Steelers could win a very tough division. Huge if, obviously. But I changed Pittsburgh’s slot three times in the last few days”.
Their success also hinges on a lot of untested changes, from the promotions of Matt Canada to offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm to offensive line coach, to the addition of Harris at running back, among others.
And we must also account for the loss of talent throughout the offseason, due to free agency, retirement, and the salary cap, from Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson to Mike Hilton, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, and so on.
The reality is that the AFC North is the toughest that it has been in some time, with two teams at a height with the Steelers at the same time, which has been a rarity. That is reflected in the fact that both the Baltimore Ravens (7th) and the Cleveland Browns (4th) are ranked above them. Of course, many thought the Steelers would finish third in the AFC North in 2020, as well.