The Underdogs

Will the Steelers maintain their winning standard, despite low expectations from their critics?


photo by Halle Marsalis

Surprisingly, the Steelers are being slept on by NFL pundits, but their talent suggests it could be a season of overturned expectations.

Manas Kathir, Staff Writer

Yes, the National Football League is back. The world has a lot of questions they want the answer to this season. Will Tom Brady get his 8th ring? Will Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs take back the throne they lost last year? Will the “bad man” Aaron Rodgers be able to overcome the obstacles within the Packers organization and bring Green Bay another championship? Will the Dallas Cowboys fan base be right for the first time and actually make the Super Bowl?

All of these are quite interesting headlines, but a team that is not being talked about surprisingly is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And how can that be? They started out 11-0 last year, have undoubtedly one of the best fan bases in the game, and have a football coach named Mike Tomlin who’s basically incapable of having a losing record.

In addition, the Steelers drafted a big name in the 2021 NFL Draft. Alabama’s former running back, Najee Harris, is now a Pittsburgh Steeler and has proven to be a game-changing player with amazing talent and potential.

Why are they being slept on?

Although all the above are true, you have to consider the schedule they have to beat in order to have a winning record. The Steelers will have to play many teams that are trending upwards, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Chicago Bears.

With the former offensive line basically gone due to retirement or trades, they will have to rebuild it extremely well in order to keep Ben Roethlisberger protected.

In addition, the Steelers play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL — the AFC North. The Cleveland Browns have proven to be legit after beating the Steelers in the playoffs. Baker Mayfield finally showed his true potential and the coaching changes under Kevin Stefanski have helped Cleveland rebuild their culture.

Next is the Baltimore Ravens, who have always been a Super Bowl contender under Lamar Jackson. With his athleticism and ability to run, he has been able to make the offense highly formidable. John Harbaugh, the coach, has proven to be a top five coach, and their solid defense only justifies how much of a threat the Ravens truly are.

Last is the Cincinnati Bengals, who can’t really be judged at the moment. Joe Burrow, the quarterback they drafted with the first pick in the 2020 draft, had some great moments before he tore his ACL later in the season.

Having said all of this, the competition is extremely tough for the Steelers with the division and it gets even tougher with the full AFC Conference. The Kansas City Chiefs will be coming back as former AFC Champions. The Buffalo Bills have established a great football culture and Josh Allen (Bills quarterback) is highly motivated to bring a championship to Buffalo. The New England Patriots are a team never to be slept on. With arguably the best coach of all-time in Bill Belichick, amazing offensive coaching from Josh McDaniels, and the highly confident rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots are going to make some noise. To expand on this, let’s remember that Tom Brady won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, creating a public narrative that Bill Belichek needs him to win. Belichek won’t be playing around this year because he’s coming into this season with a chip on his shoulder.

Personally, I have a feeling that the Steelers are going to make noise and shock many football fans this year. Similar to last year when they started out 11-0 and finished with a 12-4 record, I feel they will have the same amount of success because of teams underestimating them.

The new NFL season consists of 17 regular-season games and so I have the Steelers finishing with a 12-5 record and qualifying for a Wild Card spot (5-7 seed). I believe that the offensive firepower (Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Juju-Smith Schuster, Eric Ebron, etc.) along with the above-average defense will surprise teams and lead to a number of upsets. Along with that, the Terrible Towels and Steel Curtain will always be there to cheer on the franchise.