2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions with Odds to Win Super Bowl
Since 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers have won the AFC North division four times and have finished second three times. They have made the playoffs in five of those seasons. And If they are expecting to keep up that positive trend, they are going to need to show us that they still have what it takes to compete in the AFC North. The Steelers’ offense simply does not impress me on paper, and I believe it’ll be up to the defense to keep them competitive and in ball games.
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The Steelers open up their 2021-22 campaign on September 12 with a trip to Western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills. From there, the Steelers return home for two games against the Raiders and Bengals before traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers. The Steelers return home for Weeks 5 and 6 as they host the Broncos and Seahawks before a Week 7 bye.
As of writing this, the Steelers are relative longshots to win the Super Bowl as they check in +3300, which is way higher than we’ve seen them over the past decade or so. To win the AFC, the Steelers are +1600 and to win the AFC North the Steelers are +320.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from each unit heading into this season.
Key Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, Juju Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool
After getting injured in Week 2 of the 2019 season, Ben Roethlisberger returned to the Steelers in 2020 and performed quite well for the team. He led them to a 12-3 record and threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He also completed 65 percent of his passes. But for some reason, the Steelers’ offense just never looked like it was in sync or hit top gear. They were behind the defense in terms of the level of play. And while they did manage to put up 37 in the playoff loss to Cleveland, a lot of those points came in garbage time when the game was already lost. Much has been made of Roethlisberger’s ability to stay healthy and his weight. However, from what I’ve read and heard, Roethlisberger is ready and fully committed for another long and grueling season. To his benefit, the team added a solid running back option to help keep the defenses honest and give him an extra split second to make the right read.
And that running back option is none other than Najee Harris out of Alabama. Harris had a great college career running behind some great offensive lines in Tuscaloosa, so the leap to the pros may not be that big of an adjustment for him. The Steelers, when fully healthy, have a solid offensive line that can give Harris lanes to run through. More so, Harris is a great pass-catching back and should help open up the offense a little bit more than last season.
And lastly, the duo of Chase Claypool and Juju Smith Schuster have to step up and become legitimate go-to receivers if the Steelers want to compete in the AFC. Big Ben can only do so much. And if the receivers aren’t getting open, fighting through tackles and gaining YAC’s, then the ceiling is low for the Steelers’ offense.
Defense & Special Teams
Key Players: TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Defensively, the Steelers were among the best units in the league, which doesn’t come as a surprise because they’ve had one of the better defensive units in the league for the last handful of years. The defense was so dominant last year that people were starting to believe the Steelers had what it took to knock off the Chiefs in the playoffs and find their way to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Browns had other plans, and the Wild-Card Game did not go in favor of the Steelers. For what it’s worth, the Steelers defense was ranked third overall in points allowed per game, giving up just 19.5. They were ranked 11th against the run, giving up just 114 yards per contest. And through the air, the Steelers were impossible to throw on, giving up just 194.5 yards per contest, which put them third overall. In that playoff game against Cleveland, you know, the one where they gave up 48 points, the defense looked lost and the entire team simply did not show up. A one-off cost them a really good chance to go deep in the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond this season. As for special teams, the Steelers will rely on Chris Boswell to handle the kicking duties, and he was a consistent performer last season.
The Steelers are an enigma. During the time they had Ben, Bell and Brown leading the way, they won the division three times in four seasons but had only one AFC Championship appearance to show for it. Now they have just Roethlisberger and a bunch of young players looking to step up and make a name for themselves. Can the offense hold up their end of the bargain and help the defense out? That’s the biggest question. The offense was a dink-and-dunk offense with very little by way of the run game. The addition of Najee Harris should help the run game, but it’ll be a very tough road for the Steelers to navigate in a division that’s really competitive.
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