The Pittsburgh Steelers had another exceptional regular season in 2017, finishing 13-3 and winning the AFC North without much of a hassle. However, it was all for naught after the Steelers suffered a disappointing playoff loss to the Jaguars. It’s now been 10 years since Mike Tomlin and the Steelers won a Super Bowl, so naturally, the natives are getting restless.
Perhaps more importantly, this season could be Pittsburgh’s last opportunity for a long time to win a Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger is no doubt approaching the end of his career. Star running back Le’Veon Bell is also likely in his last season with the Steelers after he and the team once again failed to agree to an extension. However, if the Steelers can put all of the off-field issues aside, there’s no doubt they are capable of being a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2018.
Oddsmakers list the Steelers at +1200 to win the Super Bowl. Those odds are no doubt a result of no overwhelming contenders in the AFC outside of Pittsburgh and New England. Regardless, it gives the Steelers realistic Super Bowl hopes. The Steelers also have a projected win total of 10.5 games. Eclipsing that mark is also a realistic possibility considering the team’s talent and Tomlin’s track record as a head coach.
Despite Roethlisberger’s advanced age, the Steelers continue to have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. Once Bell actually shows up to training camp, he’ll be one of the most explosive backs in the league. Of course, with the Steelers having three Pro Bowlers returning on the offensive line, backup James Conner shouldn’t have a problem finding holes and running the ball if the Steelers have to lean on him a little more this season.
Roethlisberger also has a healthy contingent of receivers at his disposal, and it goes beyond the nearly un-stoppable Antonio Brown. JuJu Smith-Shuster proved his worth as the team’s no. 2 receiver last year with over 900 yards receiving. Rookie James Washington also gives the Steelers another explosive option on the outside. Even the likes of Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey are capable contributors. Jesse James and Vance McDonald also give Pittsburgh’s offense a pair of capable tight ends.
Defensively, the Steelers should be in good shape after giving up the seventh-fewest points in the league last year. For starters, they’ve had time to figure out life without Ryan Shazier. The Pittsburgh defensive front is also as strong as ever after Cameron Heyward accumulated 12 sacks a season ago. Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt also provide capable pass rushers from the outside. The Steelers also added Morgan Burnett in free agency and Terrell Edmunds in the draft to help reinforce their secondary
As long as Bell eventually shows up and the aging Roethlisberger stays healthy, it should be the same old Steelers in 2018. All the pieces are there to be a serious contender. The only difference may be that this team knows it’s their last chance to reach the top, which should provide the motivation they need to make another deep playoff run.
|Sep 9||@ Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||Kansas City Chiefs||1:00 PM|
|Sep 24||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8:15 PM|
|Sep 30||Baltimore Ravens||8:20 PM|
|Oct 7||Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM|
|Oct 14||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
|Nov 4||@ Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM|
|Nov 8||Carolina Panthers||8:20 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Jacksonville Jaguars||8:20 PM|
|Nov 25||@ Denver Broncos||4:25 PM|
|Dec 2||Los Angeles Chargers||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||@ Oakland Raiders||8:20 PM|
|Dec 16||New England Patriots||4:25 PM|
|Dec 23||@ New Orleans Saints||4:25 PM|
|Dec 30||Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
Schedule-wise, the Steelers face six rivalry games against their fellow AFC North foes as well as six playoff teams from a season ago, so there are some challenging games. They face all four teams from the deep NFC South and each team from the wild AFC West. The Patriots are also lurking on the schedule late in the season. However, the first half of the schedule is a little lighter than the second half, so starting the year 6-2 or 7-1 isn’t out of the question. If the Steelers can start fast, it should make things a little easier late in the year.
The bottom line is that the Steelers are still the best team in the AFC North, and it’s not that close. That should help guarantee Pittsburgh a playoff spot and at least one home game in the postseason. That sets them up nicely for to take one last shot at winning a Super Bowl before the core of the roster starts to change.