For the most part, the timing of games probably has minimal effect on over/under projections for win totals. What matters most is the rosters of the teams playing one another, rather than when exactly they get together, until you actually know what the teams will look like at the time they play.
In other words, it’s nothing new that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ projected over/under win total is nine games (in a 17-game season, of course, which would be 9-8, or 9-7-1…or 9-3-5, etc.). And for ESPN analytics contributor Seth Walder, that’s the safest win total over/under right now…going with the under. He writes:
With an aging Roethlisberger and a very questionable offensive line, this offense could get ugly fast. The defense was elite last season, but we know that side of the ball is less stable from year to year, particularly with a few players — Cam Heyward and Joe Haden, among others — reaching the twilight of their careers.
While none of this is wrong, frankly, almost everybody thought the Steelers would do a lot worse than 12-4 last year, as well. I’m sure a lot of people took the under on the Steelers’ wins, and lost money on that one. This is quite obviously a Steelers team with a lot of concerning warts, but they also have a lot of talent, and some moving pieces this year, including on the coaching staff, could make a difference.
One thing we certainly know is that the passing game can’t pick up where it left off last season, aside from the slide improvement in the deep passing game very late in the year. Gone is Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator. Gone is Shaun Sarrett as offensive line coach. They have been replaced by in-house names, but names bringing a rather different philosophy to the table in Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm. Names that would excite people more if they hadn’t been on the staff last year.
The Steelers’ top priority this offseason has clearly been in addressing the run game, and I can’t help but wonder if Fichtner’s attitude toward running the ball as expressed in his interviews last season was one of the reasons they were looking for a change. Canada will certainly approach things differently, and Klemm has been consistently emphatic about improving the physicality of his unit.
With that said, it’s hard not to notice who isn’t here anymore. Some will argue that there is some addition by subtraction. But the net losses of Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Steven Nelson, Vance McDonald, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, and Alejandro Villanueva, among others, will undoubtedly be an issue at some point this year.