It’s been a few years since the Pittsburgh Steelers last entered a season being regarded as favorites to do much of anything, let alone win a Super Bowl. In most cases, those who end up picking them to succeed are viewed as contrarians.
That’s surely a label that Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has heard a time or two before in his life, and he’s not going to slow down now. Having recently become a regular guest on 93.7 The Fan’s The PM Team show, he recently weighed in on the AFC North this year, and the Steelers’ opener.
“I have not picked a record, per se, but I have picked them to win the division”, he told his hosts. “I have lived in and around Pittsburgh my entire life…I feel like whenever they’re expected to be bad, they find a way to overachieve”.
Not only did he predict that the Steelers would win the AFC North in a division that hosts the reigning AFC champions in the Cincinnati Bengals, he actually went so far as to say that he believes they will also win the Week 1 matchup.
“I would not want to be playing the Steelers this week”, he said. “They beat the Bills week one last year and stunned those folks in Buffalo, and I have a feeling folks in Cincinnati are gonna be disappointed some Sunday afternoon when they see what the Steelers do with the Bengals”.
The Steelers were decided underdogs in the first week of the season last year, going on the road to face the Buffalo Bills, and they narrowly came out of town with a victory, thanks in no small part to some special teams success.
Buffalo did not have any first-game hiccups last night in taking down the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers are hoping that the Super Bowl losers will be caught sleeping, as well.
For Florio, though, it’s just about the nature of the organization that has him believe they will defy expectations. “Look what they did last year to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs, even though Ben Roethlisberger was a shell of himself”, he said. “2019, when Roethlisberger got injured, everything they did to stay in it, stay relevant”.
“I think that in a hotly competitive AFC, and in an AFC North that is very even top to bottom, I think that plays into the Steelers’ hands”, Florio added. “They have so many people just looking at them saying, ‘Yeah, sorry Steelers, it’s time for you to have a bad year’. I think Mike Tomlin said it best when Peter King was at training camp. He said, ‘Bring it on’”.
The Steelers will be bringing a lot of new contributors this year, acquired via the draft, free agency, and even trade. The coaching staff has been shaken up here and there, and even a new general manager is in place. This is in many ways not the same Steelers we have been watching for decades. On Sunday, they begin telling us who they are.