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: Who will win the AFC North this year?
With three games left to play, every team in the AFC North is within a game of one another. With the exception of the Steelers and the Bengals, and the Ravens and the Browns, everybody in the division still plays one another again. Each team has two divisional games, and one game against a quality opponent.
The 8-6 Ravens still play the Bengals and Steelers, and have the Rams to deal with. The 8-6 Bengals face the Ravens and Browns, as well as the Chiefs. The 7-7 Browns draw the Bengals and Steelers, as well as the Packers. Finally, the 7-6-1 Steelers still play the Ravens and Browns again, with the Chiefs on deck.
It wouldn’t be shocking if all four teams lose their non-divisional game; I don’t think any of them will be favored in any of those matchups, at least in a vacuum. The ‘interesting’ thing about the rest of this season—if we can call it that—is that we frankly don’t know how each game might be shaped by the pandemic, making player availability a question mark.
The Browns and the Ravens have already both been significantly impacted by player availability due to COVID-19. The Steelers could possibly be on the cusp of their own spread, with three players going on the COVID-19 List yesterday.
Gun to your head, though, who comes out on top in the end? The Ravens are 0-1 against the Bengals and 1-1 against the Browns. The Bengals are 0-1 against the Browns. And of course you know the Steelers’ records against these teams: 0-2 against the Bengals, and 1-0 against the Ravens and Browns.