Expectations for the Pittsburgh Steelers entering this season are as low as they’ve been in two decades. No longer viewed as favorites or strong contenders for the AFC North, many in the media believe Mike Tomlin’s in danger of suffering his first losing season. Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski isn’t guaranteeing that non-losing streak continues, but he is taking the over on the Steelers’ win total, believing the team will win at least eight games this year.
With an over/under of seven wins, Sobleski writes Pittsburgh will hit the over. In part, he writes:
“Don’t discount the Pittsburgh Steelers just because longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retired. Head coach Mike Tomlin knows how to win, and the roster features plenty of difference-makers, particularly on defense.”
Similar to Roethlisberger’s early days, the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Pittsburgh will rely on its defense to stay competitive and keep scores down. Even with a change in quarterback and the potential to open up the passing game, the Steelers’ offense figures to be at best average, and more likely, falling somewhere in that 20-25 range. They were the 21st-ranked scoring offense a year ago but struggled mightily for stretches, especially in the first halves of games. The Steelers still retain all their defensive studs in T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, while their run defense shouldn’t be as miserable as it was a year ago. Sobleski believes offseason additions to that side of the ball will help.
“Stephon Tuitt’s surprise retirement didn’t help, though the addition of Larry Ogunjobi should offset that loss to some degree. Myles Jack should greatly help the second line of defense, too.”
Ogunjobi had a career-year last season, putting up seven sacks with the Bengals. It nearly parlayed itself into a $40 million deal with the Chicago Bears but the contract fell through after Ogunjobi failed his physical due to a foot injury. Assuming he’ll be healthy for Week 1, he could wind up a steal and make the loss of Stephon Tuitt a lot easier to handle. Jack is a clear upgrade over Joe Schobert while Devin Bush should be at least a bit better than a season ago. There’s also more stability and continuity in the secondary, not to mention signing DBs Levi Wallace and Damontae Kazee.
Offensively, Sobleski did note the impress names Pittsburgh has at the skill positions. A potentially potent receiver group of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and rookies George Pickens and Calvin Austin III along with RB Najee Harris and TE Pat Freiermuth, two players who proved their worth last season. But questions revolve around the two most important units – offensive line and quarterback.
The article strikes an optimistic tone about the Steelers’ season, something uncommon to read this offseason. Then again, Sobleski also took the over on Baltimore’s win total (9.5) and Cincinnati’s (10) and the whole division can’t win nine games. So something’s gotta give.