NFL.com columnist Adam Schein is at it again, this time predicting the Cincinnati Bengals will win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021.
“The Steelers still have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s not Benjamin Button,” Schein writes. “Now 39 years old, Big Ben clearly hit a wall down the stretch last year. So did Pittsburgh. From 11-0 to first-round playoff exit. And I don’t see the trend reversing for the better in 2021.”
While Schein is no stranger to taking shots at Roethlisberger, his main gripes with the Steelers are the uncertainty along the offensive line and losses of key contributors on the defensive side to free agency.
“While first-round pick Najee Harris is a stud runner, the offensive line remains problematic,” Schein adds. “The defense lost Bud Dupree (who’d become a fabulous edge-rushing complement to T.J. Watt) and Mike Hilton (the stud slot corner who just so happened to relocate to Cincy). And it sure doesn’t help that the aging Steelers drew the NFL’s toughest strength of schedule.”
As for the Bengals, Schein is all in on second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and his batch of young weapons.
Joe Burrow took the field at Bengals workouts on Tuesday. That’s all I needed to see,” Schein writes. “Burrow will hit the ground running with old LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. This connection was special in that 2019 national championship run — I can’t wait to see these two make sweet music together once again. And the Bengals’ band of playmakers runs deep. Burrow already showed a fine rapport with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, while Joe Mixon has the all-around skill set to bounce back in a major way from last year’s injury-riddled campaign.”
He does concede that Cincinnati’s defensive is still a question mark, but believes a high powered offense will allow them to overcome those concerns.
“Like colleague Gregg Rosenthal said, the offensive line looks better on paper than you think,” Schein writes. “Lou Anarumo’s defense remains a big question mark — with a bunch of notable losses and gains in free agency — but the offense has the kind of firepower to win some shootouts. All in all, I think the arrow is pointing up in Cincy.”
Pittsburgh won the AFC North division with a 12-4 record a season ago, while Cincinnati finished fourth at 4-11-1. The two clubs did split the season series, with the Bengals taking the latter of the two matchups in late December.
Cincinnati has not finished with a better record than Pittsburgh since 2015.