The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will the Steelers be in first place in the AFC North by day’s end?
With the Baltimore Ravens surprisingly dropping a game on Thursday night to the Miami Dolphins—following a couple of surprising wins—every team in the AFC North now has at least three losses. As does every other team in the AFC short of the 7-2 Tennessee Titans, who won’t have Derrick Henry for the rest of the season.
The Ravens now have just a half-game lead over the 5-3 Steelers, who could match Baltimore’s 6-3 record if they defeat the winless Detroit Lions at home today. That sounds like an eminently possible outcome, to be sure, but no victory is ever assured before kickoff.
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but the Ravens haven’t faced each other yet, so the second goes to division record. The Ravens are 0-1 in the AFC North, while the Steelers are 1-1, so at least for the time being, Pittsburgh would own the tiebreaker over Baltimore should they win this week.
In case you’re wondering, should the Steelers beat the Lions, not only would they move into first place in the AFC North, they would move to the second seed in the AFC, the Titans owning the conference record tiebreaker over the Steelers, even if they do lose.
The Chargers are currently the third seed behind the Titans and Ravens. They would remain the third seed, if they win, behind the Steelers, because Pittsburgh has a stronger strength of victory. They would also be ahead of the fourth-place Buffalo Bills by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Of course, all of this is predicated on the Steelers beating a Jared Goff-led, Dan Campbell-coached Detroit Lions team at Heinz Field.