The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense, and multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quote with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Are the Steelers more likely to finish last in the AFC North this year than first?
While it’s been common for over a year now to find those who think the Steelers are inferior teams to the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, it’s still generally held, though not universally, that they are still a better team than the Cincinnati Bengals, who have even more unknowns than does Pittsburgh.
Correspondingly, almost nobody is picking the Steelers to win the AFC North this year. But not many are picking them to be last, either. They went 12-4 and won the division in 2020 despite prognosticators expecting them to finish third, it should be noted.
But which scenario is more likely for 2021: that the Steelers upset and win the AFC North again, or that they end up on the bottom? The AFC North does have the toughest slate of games in the league this year, with the Ravens’ and Browns’ road not much easier than Pittsburgh’s, so I don’t think we can count on another 14-2 season from the Ravens like they had two years ago. Of course, now it would be 15-2 or 14-3 (or 14-2-1).
The answer to this question has to depend equally on what you expect from the Bengals as it does what you expect from the Steelers. Do you think the Bengals can post a winning season? Do you think the Steelers can be drafting in the top 10? Neither first nor last is the most likely scenario, but which has higher odds of coming true? Are they closer to the top, or to the bottom?