Will the Pittsburgh Steelers be a competitive team over the course of the next three seasons? A panel of ESPN experts now certainly believes that won’t necessarily be the case, according to the recent release of the site’s annual future NFL power rankings on Monday.
This year’s expert ESPN panel once again includes, Louis Riddick, Jeremy Fowler, Field Yates, and Seth Walder. They were all once again asked to rate the rosters of all 32 NFL teams, excluding quarterbacks, in addition to rating each team’s quarterback, draft, front office and coaching. The ratings of those five categories were then weighted to produce a future ranking system. When it comes to the Steelers 2021 future ranking, the panel’s results have them seventeenth overall; with a score of 75.7.
In case you’re curious, the Baltimore Ravens (3rd, 86.2) and Cleveland Browns (5th, 84.7) are now both in the top 5.
Last year, the same panel ranked the Steelers seventh overall with a score of 81.6 behind the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles.
As for this years results, Yates first attempted to explain in a quick overview why the Steelers are ranked where they are this year, which again is 17th overall.
One of the steadiest franchises in football enters an interesting phase: Ben Roethlisberger has just one year left on his deal and had to agree to a reduced salary to stick around for this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if 2021 is his final season in the NFL, which begs the question of what’s next for the Steelers under center in the years of 2022, 2023 and beyond. The current pipeline is led by Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, both of whom have much to prove. But you know this team will find ways to be competitive with Mike Tomlin as head coach.
As for the Steelers biggest worry moving forward, Riddick pointed to the Steelers offensive line and the notion that 2021 is likely to be the final season in Pittsburgh for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
While having some quality young players on the roster at receiver, running back, edge, linebacker and safety — and a great head coach — this team is terrible on the offensive line, and Roethlisberger is likely in his last season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have a lot of work to do and GM Kevin Colbert is year to year at this point in terms of deciding when to retire, which makes their outlook all the more uncertain.
As for what could change for the better moving forward, Fowler points to the Steelers offensive line overall and that’s because it has been retooled this offseason with the addition of two young players via the draft.
The offensive line is not hot trash, as projected in some media circles. The line got old fast last year and it had to get younger and more nimble. The team has big plans for third-round center Kendrick Green, second-year guard Kevin Dotson has toughness and fourth-round tackle Dan Moore Jr. is the classic developmental project that Pittsburgh usually turns into production. Left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has elite feet, and he just needs the toughness of right tackle Zach Banner, who will help the running game.
Walder then finished of the evaluation on the Steelers 2021 rankings with a key stat note.
In 2020, Pittsburgh recorded the highest pass rush win rate among all teams and the lowest completion percentage over expectation of all teams. That’s a brutal combination for opposing offenses. With both ends of the defense anchored by young stars in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh should stay dangerous.
Overall, is the panel’s 2021 offering on the Steelers future for the next three years reasonably fair? I mean, they are essentially in the middle of the pack now and mainly because nobody really knows what the quarterback position will be like beginning in 2022. A year ago the Steelers were ranked seventh overall in these very rankings with a score of 81.6. In 2019 they were ranked sixth overall in these same rankings with a score of 84.4 In 2018 they were ranked fifth overall in these same rankings with a score of 83.8. In 2017 the Steelers were also ranked fifth overall and with a score of 84.35. In the 2016 rankings they were fourth overall with a score of 83.5. In 2015 they ranked fifth overall with a score of 82.2 and in 2014 they ranked seventh with a score of 79.91. If you are scoring at home, the Steelers 2021 score of 75.7 is the lowest it’s ever been since ESPN.com started these silly future rankings.
It’s quite obvious that the ESPN panel feels this year the Steelers aren’t likely to have much success and that just moderate success is expected the next two seasons after 2021. Other than the Steelers draft score of 71.8, the rest of the team’s scores in the separate categories are all-time lows when it comes to this format of ratings and rankings.
What’s interesting is that there is no mention of new Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris in any of these recaps and its obvious that this same panel hasn’t been high on the Steelers last two drafts.
If you are curious, I have been tracking these ESPN future rankings since their inception and below are the year-by-year scores for you to catch up on.
|Overall roster (minus QB)||74.5||82.3||84.3||81.7||82.3||81.0||78.7||73.8|