Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When Last We Met
Despite such a great start to the year, everything ended in disastrous fashion for Pittsburgh. One of the most surprising things about the 2020 season was that the Steelers started an impressive 11-0 but they never were a factor in terms of the Super Bowl odds in the sportsbook. Then, in Week 13, they ended up losing to the Washington Football Team, breaking their streak and starting a three-game losing skid in the process.
Pittsburgh did pick up a much-needed, come-from-behind win over the Indianapolis Colts to improve to 12-3, though it lost the last game of the regular season to end on a 12-4 note. The late-season skid actually meant that the Steelers had to play on Wild Card Weekend despite their terrific start and that cost them. Pittsburgh matched up against divisional rival Cleveland and those betting online saw the Steelers get completely blown away. They lost 48-37 but the score really wasn’t that close as Cleveland jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back. It’s not a game that many Steelers fans are going to want to think about for a long time.
Pittsburgh fans had sky-high hopes that incredible start — and the team was great versus the NFL betting lines — but are now wondering if this roster is even good enough to make it into the postseason in 2021.
To Miss the Playoffs (-200)
The NFL odds have the Steelers missing the playoffs this season and it won’t take very much to make that happen. Pittsburgh was going through a lot of roster turmoil throughout the end of last season and it seemed like the whole team began to crumble after losing that first game. Much of that was due to the receiving corps, which was a bit more focused on dancing on TikTok rather than delivering on the field (notably, Juju Smith Schuster and Chase Claypool).
If that continues, this roster may have quite a bit of bumps to sort out internally because head coach Mike Tomlin has to get a grip on these guys before he loses the locker room. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is also coming back to be the starter but he’s a year older. He faded down the stretch last season, so there are question marks. He didn’t have much help from the ground game or the offensive line, though. If those areas aren’t improved, the Steelers probably do miss the playoffs and miss out on the NFL playoff odds.
To Make the Playoffs (+160)
Overall, this is still are still a very talented team and most people making their NFL predictions think there’s a chance they get in. Many franchises in the NFL would love to have their roster. Roethlisberger is likely to have more help to work with than he did in 2020. Last season’s Steelers were pass-heavy with a sub-par rushing attack. This year, they are going to have running back Najee Harris, who they selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, to take over for James Conner in the backfield. This should improve their rushing attack drastically and hopefully get them more balanced offensively. Harris should also be an excellent receiver out of the backfield and a reliable safety valve for Big Ben.
A new offensive coordinator and play-caller (Matt Canada) is also a great sign for this roster as it just didn’t seem like their previous coaching staff was working well with Roethlisberger. Even if this offense underperforms, their defense could still be considered one of the best in the league. With Minkah Fitzpatrick roaming around in the secondary and the combination of Melvin Ingram and T.J. Watt up front, they could cause some problems all season long. They led the league in sacks last year and should be in the running again. Getting back a healthy Devin Bush will only bolster this unit.
As long as the Steelers are somewhat competent on offense – and they could be a lot better than that – we should see this team contend for a playoff spot.
To Win the AFC North (+300)
The Steelers are really going to have to work hard to cash these NFL division odds. They were able to claim this title last season behind their 11-game win streak to start the year and they were a good bet against the spread as well, but things are likely going to be different this time around.
For one, the Baltimore Ravens are likely to be improved after another successful season in 2020. Lamar Jackson is one of the most electric quarterbacks in the league and should be vastly improved alongside newly drafted Rashod Bateman and free agent acquisition Sammy Watkins. The team already has a terrific rushing attack and one of the best defensive units in the league, so if they are able to play to their expectations, they will be tough to beat.
The Cleveland Browns are in a similar position in this division. They are coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history behind their stellar young quarterback in Baker Mayfield. Odell Beckham Jr. is also expected to return to the field following his ACL injury and will provide Jarvis Landry with a great receiving partner. Not to mention the fact that they have Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb in the backfield to make this offense incredibly well balanced.
Lastly, you have the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati struggled for the majority of last season but much of that was due to rookie QB Joe Burrow being knocked out behind a terrible knee injury. He should be able to make a return and keep them in contention for a few wins and covers, but this team isn’t ready to compete at all yet. They will, however, have a say in this race as they’ll pull an upset or two. The problem is their defense is far too inconsistent and the offensive line is still in shambles.
Again, this is arguably the toughest division in all of football right now. if Pittsburgh wants to claim consecutive titles, it will need to play fantastic.
To Win the AFC (+1600)
Winning the AFC is definitely a longshot for Pittsburgh as the NFL conference odds suggest. We just went over how difficult it is going to be just for them to march themselves into the postseason. Assuming they are able to put all the pieces together and survive their tough division, they will at best be in a Wild Card situation. It is likely they would match up with a division rival in that round, then go forward to face either the Buffalo Bills or the Kansas City Chiefs.
Buffalo is led by young superstar quarterback Josh Allen, who took massive leaps forward in his development last season after their acquisition of Stefon Diggs. If Buffalo can figure out its offensive line situation, its running game could make the Bills 10 times deadlier on the offensive end. It’s worth noting that this Buffalo team has had some issues defensively but own one of the fastest secondaries in the league along with a strong linebacking corps.
As for the Chiefs, they have made the Super Bowl the past two seasons now – including a win in their first one. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is just phenomenal and has a ton of help with both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to throw the football to. The selection of Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 2020 draft improved their rushing attack, and this offseason they chose to stack up their offensive line even more. Their defense could be a weak spot but they do have talent. The only issue would be their inexperience, but they got a lot of that last season in their postseason run.
The Steelers match up horribly against the Chiefs but stand a fighting chance against Buffalo. Eventually, Kansas City will line up across from the Steelers if they want to win the conference, and a victory over the Chiefs will surely get them the AFC.
To Win the Super Bowl (+3300)
The Super Bowl Odds aren’t very kind to the Steelers and rightfully so. Pittsburgh is in an incredibly tough conference with a few opponents that have dominated the postseason the last couple of years. If they beat the odds and make it to the big game, there are a number of opponents in the NFC that could cause them issues. First off, the Los Angeles Rams were a good team that lost in the playoffs last season and have since improved their team drastically. It was obvious that Jared Goff wasn’t their long-term answer at quarterback, so they flipped him to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Mathew Stafford. Stafford is likely going to have a fantastic offensive line and a stacked wide receiver corps, but the running game is a concern after an injury to Cam Akers. And he also has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on the defensive side to further load the roster.
If the Rams don’t get to the big game and become a factor for Super Bowl betting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may face off with Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay won it all last season behind the stellar play from Tom Brady and its defense. This team was also able to re-sign all 22 of their starters from last season. If the Buccaneers are the team to make the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, Roethlisberger will have his hands full against the guy that constantly beat them back when he was in New England with the Patriots.
Pittsburgh doesn’t match up well with either of those teams, which is why they are likely not going to make it that far. However, there is a possibility of a title run if they are able to turn back the clock on Roethlisberger and find themselves with an All-Pro running back in Harris.