It’s the time of year when record predictions start pouring in from national pundits, and some of them seem optimistic about the Steelers this year, but the latest one is optimistic but pessimistic at the same time. In something out 2008, the Steelers could put up an impressive record and miss the playoffs.
Nate Davis of USA Today gave out his predictions, and he sees the AFC North being a juggernaut. The Bengals are still predicted to win the division crown at 12-5. But the Ravens will be predicted to be a wild card team at 11-6. Cleveland checks in at 10-7. But the Steelers are the third place team at 11-6, but the odd thing is that they would miss the playoffs.
“Maybe 11 wins feel overly optimistic at first blush given the conference gauntlet and the especially unforgiving AFC North. But consider that the Steelers closed 2022 with a four-game win streak – salvaging HC Mike Tomlin’s perfect streak without a sub-.500 season – and that was with rookie QB Kenny Pickett, OLB T.J. Watt out nearly half the season and RB Najee Harris not quite resembling the player who was so productive as a rookie in 2021. And with likely future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Joey Porter Jr. aboard to solidify the corners for a pass defense that slipped to a No. 19 ranking, a two-game improvement from 9-8 ought to be perfectly achievable,” Davis wrote.
Pittsburgh would lose out on a playoff spot due to inferior conference records compared to the Ravens and Miami Dolphins. That would be similar to when the 11-5 Patriots missed the playoffs in 2008. Though, in general, Davis is high on the AFC as a whole. But every team in the AFC North finishing 10-7 or better would be generally unheard of in the NFL. For the Steelers, if this scenario played out, it would be a bittersweet ending for a team that seemingly would be much improved but not get a crack at the dance.
The likelier outcome is that one of the teams in the AFC North ends up sinking. It could be the Steelers, and while the AFC North is viewed as a preseason juggernaut, it could end up being a smoother ride than most will think by the end of the season. Regardless, this is an out there prediction that really would be something to see if it came true.