The 2020 NFL offseason has really just begun, but it has not been a period of optimism for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the team’s sudden exit in the first round of the 2020 NFL Playoffs, the Steelers have come face to face with a harsh roster reality.
Two offensive starters have retired, the team remains an estimated $24 million over the salary cap, and there are more than a dozen players expected to become free agents, with no cap space with which to re-sign them.
2020 starters James Conner, Bud Dupree, Vance McDonald, Maurkice Pouncey, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Alejandro Villanueva all seem unlikely to return and the status of several others, including starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, remains up in the air.
As a result, Pittsburgh has the third-best betting odds of coming out on top in the AFC North and the 16th-best odds for Super Bowl LVI.
Suffice to say, another 11-0 start to the season does not appear to be in the cards for the Steelers.
But not all prediction methods are as bearish as the oddsmakers on Pittsburgh’s chances in 2021. DVOA ratings, developed by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, calculate the team’s success rate for the specific down and distance of each play, then compares how successful they are to league average, when adjusting for the quality of the opposing defense.
Schatz acknowledged that it’s probably too early to make meaningful predictions about the 2021 season with free agency and the draft yet to come, but even as things stand right now, his system is more favorable to the Steelers than many others.
In a set of rankings released last week, Football Outsiders has the Steelers as the No. 9 team in DVOA, with a 4.6% success rate above average overall.
Green Bay is the team that DVOA likes the most for 2021 right now, followed by Super Bowl participants Tampa Bay and Kansas City, Buffalo, San Francisco, Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore. The New Orleans Saints round out the top 10.