Last year ended in ignominious fashion. The formerly hapless Cleveland Browns utterly destroyed my beloved Steelers in the playoffs after an 11-0 start to the season. As we learned, running backs do in fact have value, as does an offensive line. While Ben Roethlisberger had himself a decent season, by week 11 everybody realized that all they had to do was drop in coverage because there was zero threat from the running game.
Well, the offensive line is all new and the Steelers drafted Najee Harris, so they at least attempted to address the situation. It’s difficult to draw any conclusions from preseason, but Harris looks to be everything they hoped for and the line is serviceable at worst, so they perhaps turned that corner. They also got a good tight end and the receiving corps is top-5 in the league. A lot depends on the play calling from Matt Canada, the new offensive coordinator. Lots of uncertainty, but it looks promising.
Things are more solid defensively. They lost Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but TJ Watt got a huge new contract and the pass rush is everything it was last year when it was the best in the league. The secondary is a bit more suspect but Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden are still high-level players.
The bottom line is that this year could go either way. Pittsburgh has the toughest schedule in the league and the division is stupid tough.
Speaking of the division, the Browns are legitimate contenders assuming Baker Mayfield doesn’t Browns it up. He didn’t get a fat new contract so that’s sitting in the back of his mind, but all he really has to do is hand the ball off to Chubb and protect it the rest of the time. The Ratbirds looked super tough, then they lost 5 players in 19 days including their best cornerback and starting backfield. However, the got Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, AND Latavius Murray, three blue chip running backs only three seasons ago, as replacements. Time will tell if they have anything left, because the Rats are a running team as well. As for the Bengals, they still can’t protect Joe Burrow but at least he has weapons. They’re not ready for prime time yet but they’re getting there.
And with that, I still think the Steelers have a shot at the division, and they will have a winning record and make the playoffs. More than that with this schedule is too much to ask.
My prediction for week one: Pittsburgh holds tough with Buffalo and wins by a field goal, 31-28. As always, could be wrong, and I wouldn’t bet that forecast, but hope springs eternal and surely you didn’t expect a loss prediction, did you?
As for the NFC, the Packers will make the Super Bowl. As long as it’s not fucking Brady I don’t care. Speaking of which, Dallas looked really good and Brady needed the typical bullshit Brady call to bail him out on Thursday. Am I the only one that’s sick of seeing that? Anyway, NFC, do us all a favor and stomp Tampa out this year.
Enjoy the season, everyone.