With the Pittsburgh Steelers having already reported to training camp earlier this week, things are moving swiftly towards the Hall of Fame game on Thursday, August 5 in Canton.
Though many other teams have yet to report to training camp as of Friday, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire — specifically QB guru Mark Schofield — dropped its pre-training camp power rankings, ranking all 32 teams prior to the start of training camp. Despite undergoing some late, unexpected changes this offseason at key positions, the Steelers rank just outside the top 10 in Schofield’s rankings, placing No. 12 overall in the power rankings.
“Having spent the better part of this day trying to make sense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I think I have finally stumbled upon the biggest question facing this storied franchise in 2021. Can they turn back the clock?” Schofield writes. “No, not to the glory days of the “Steel Curtain,” but in a more metaphorical sense. While teams are moving towards the passing game, speed and offensive firepower around the league the Steelers seem to be moving in a different direction, as they look to perhaps win with a stifling defense and a balanced offensive attack. In the era of “running backs don’t matter” and with an aging quarterback, the Steelers drafted Najee Harris with their first-round selection a few months ago. Can he be the every-down type of RB that succeeds in the new NFL? Will he help Ben Roethlisberger as he enters what could be his final season?
“In this modern era, can a team with this philosophy win? I guess we will find out.”
Schofield is spot-on here in his summary of the Steelers and their placement at No. 12 overall. Pittsburgh is certainly trying to turn back the clock stylistically, hoping to lean heavily on the rushing attack that has been rebuilt with Najee Harris and a completely new offensive line.
Aside from the questions about depth along the offensive line, depth at inside linebacker following the shocking retirement of Vince Williams, lack of depth at safety and more, it all comes down to how the offense looks under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, specifically in the run game.
It’s hard to be worse in the run game compared to last season, when the Steelers had the worst rushing attack in football. If the run game can take a significant step forward and help provide balance to the rebuilt Steelers’ offense, Pittsburgh should be right there in contention once again.