When it comes to the Bleacher Report Gridiron team of analysts, the group can’t seem to come to a consensus when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Sunday, Bleacher Report analyst Chris Roling listed the Steelers as one of five teams in the NFL who are currently being overlooked ahead of the 2021 season, joining the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders and Detroit Lions.
Previously, Bleacher Report has stated the Steelers are overrated, past their window of contention, and will struggle with Ben Roethlisberger playing behind a poor offensive line. Now, they’re overlooked.
Which is it?
My money is on the Steelers being relatively overlooked at this point, but here’s what Roling had to say about the Steelers.
“Should the Pittsburgh Steelers really rank in the middle of the Super Bowl-odds pack at +4000? Yes, the wheels fell off down the stretch last season, as 11-0 turned into losses in four out of five games before a wild-card playoff loss,” Roling writes. “But, Ben Roethlisberger’s further removed from the 2019 elbow reconstruction that hampered him last year (he still threw for 33 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions). In addition, first-round running back Najee Harris is a Derrick Henry-type capable of feasting while defenses try to contain targets Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who surprisingly returned amid a muted free-agent market.
“Defensively, Pittsburgh’s depth chart still boasts best-in-league talent in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, even after the losses of Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson. The real concern is the offensive line, which has been in a downswing for years and just lost David DeCastro. But if Big Ben’s arm is right, a short passing attack and violent ground game can compensate for the weakness,” Roling adds. “Some big ifs are baked in here. But we’re still talking about a team that hasn’t been under .500 since 2003, and its list of accomplishments under Big Ben and head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t need an explanation. While the hype levels are low, would anyone really be shocked to see the Steelers start hot again and sprint to a double-digit win count?”
It’s hard to disagree with anything Roling writes here. Yes, Roethlisberger is another year removed from surgery and really isn’t physically hampered at this point when it comes to his arm. As for Harris, the Steelers definitely added a bell cow to the backfield that has star potential and could become a top 5 running back in the NFL rather quickly.
As for the weapons on the outside Roling mentions, he’s mistaken if he doesn’t believe Diontae Johnson should be mentioned in that group with Claypool and Smith-Schuster. Johnson could have a monster season in his third season in Pittsburgh, taking attention away from Claypool and Smith-Schuster.
Defensively, the true concern is the secondary at this point, specifically cornerback. Who replaces Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson? Cameron Sutton will replace Nelson on the outside in base and should slide inside in nickel to try and replicate Hilton, but who is the third cornerback on this roster? My money is on James Pierre, but it’s still a massive question mark.
There’s no doubt though that talent still exists on this roster and Mike Tomlin remains the head coach of this roster, so assuming they will all of a sudden fall apart is missing the boat completely with this franchise.
They are certainly being overlooked ahead of the 2021 season, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: they’re not true Super Bowl contenders, at least at this point in time.