NBC Sports’ Peter King released his latest power rankings on Sunday, and he is not very optimistic about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 outlook.
King as the Steelers ranked 19th in the league, citing an aging quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and one of the toughest schedules in the league.
“I can’t unsee the 1-4 Steeler finish to the regular season, with Ben Roethlisberger presiding over a crumbling offense, and then the most embarrassing home playoff loss in Steeler history,” King wrote. “In what could be Big Ben’s last stand, he’s going to need help from his line and backfield to get Pittsburgh to double-digit wins.”
Pittsburgh drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round and selected center Kendrick Green in the third. Both should provide Roethlisberger and the offensive at large a boost, but they still have questions at offensive tackle. Chukwuma Okorafor is expected to switch to the left side for the first time, while Zach Banner will return from injury to man the right. Neither is a rather experienced player in those spots.
Even if all goes right for the Steelers in rectifying their offense and offsetting losses on the defensive side, they will have on of the league’s most difficult schedules to contend with.
King argues that last year’s record was fool’s gold capitalizing on a week slate that included the weak NFC East, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
“The Steelers benefited from the league’s second-easiest schedule in 2020 to get off to the 11-0 start, but with Buffalo, Cleveland, Green Bay and Seattle on the schedule by Halloween, no such luck this year,” King added.
Pittsburgh won the AFC North in 2020, and they have been rewarded with a division winner’s schedule. The Steelers also play the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers. The division is also expected to be the most competitive it has been in quite some time.
King ranked both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in the top ten at fourth and seventh, respectively. The Cincinnati Bengals clocked in at No. 27.
Other notable clubs ahead of the Steelers include Washington (15th), Chicago (16th) and New England (17th).