As unfortunate as Ryan Shazier’s injury was last season, this defense was not anywhere near where it was when he was on the field.
AFC NORTH DIVISION WINNERS: -250 (Bovada)
AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: +450 (Bovada)
SUPER BOWL 53 CHAMPIONS: +1000 (Bovada)
Team Win Total: O/U 10.5 (Westgate)
Week 1 @ Cleveland (-7) Week 9 @ Baltimore (PK)
Week 2 vs. Kansas City (-7) Week 10 vs. Carolina (-6.5)
Week 3 @ Tampa Bay (-4) Week 11 @ Jacksonville (-1)
Week 4 vs. Baltimore (-6) Week 12 @ Denver (-3)
Week 5 vs. Atlanta (-4) Week 13 vs. Los Angeles (Chargers) (-4.5)
Week 6 @ Cincinnati (-4) Week 14 @ Oakland (-3.5)
Week 7 BYE WEEK Week 15 vs. New England (-1)
Week 8 vs. Cleveland (-10.5) Week 16 @ New Orleans (+1)
Week 17 vs. Cincinnati
Chiefs, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Patriots and Saints all made the playoffs last year and Chargers and Oakland we also dang close. This schedule is a gauntlet.
Key Team Additions and Subtractions
Additions – LB Johnathon Bostic, and S Morgan Burnett
Subtractions – T Chirs Hubbard, WR Martavis Bryant, S Mike Mitchell, and CB William Gay
Draft – S Terrell Edmunds, WR James Washington, QB Mason Rudolph, T Chukwuma Okorafor, S Marcus Allen, RB Jaylen Samuels, and DT Joshua Frazier
Ben Roethlisberger can still sling it with the best of them. However, last year he looked disengaged and at some points in consistent towards the end of the year. After week seven Ben threw ten touchdowns and nine interceptions. His QB was just 52.75 in those weeks which would rank him as an average starter. A Super Bowl contender can’t have that.
Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in the league. However, he has only played 1 full season. The Steelers need him to be a work horse. James Conner strong running through the tackles and is a good power back to compliment Bell.
The best wide out in the league may be on this team as well as most versitle player in the NFL in Antonio Brown. Consistently averaging over 1200 yards a season and nine touchdowns, Brown is a tough task for any team to guard. To pair with Brown is JuJu Smith-Schuster who had a breakout rookie year with over 900 yards and seven touchdowns. Vance McDonald will be the receiving tightend and has some vertical upside.
All five starters on the line are above average. David Castro was a All Pro First team last year. The only thing holding this group back may be injury issues.
Cameron Heyward plays a pivotal role in this defense, as he recorded 12 sacks last season. Jason Hargrave and Stephon Tuitt don’t bring near as much to this line and its not very deep after Heyward.
Losing Shazier was a huge lose for this unit. Vince Williams and T.J. Watt (All Rookie) are solid contributors but the leadership and role he played won’t be replaced. Bud Dupree and newcomer Bostic are still strong contributors but that is all they are.
Many thought Joe Haden would return to his dominate self once he left Cleveland. He did not. Morgan Burnett, and Artie Burns will also start in this secondary but don’t offer much. Their best secondary player was slot/nickel corner Mike Hilton.
Chris Boswell is one of the best in the business. Eli Rodgers and Smith-Schuster should handle kickoffs while Brown manages punt returns.
This is one of the best offensive teams. Bell and Brown are the best 1-2 punch on any team without question. However, Big Ben needs to be the rock and be a steady performer and the defense has to be better than it was post Shazier’s injury.
The division got better and will not be as much of a push over. There wasn’t many additions and they have some tough test this year. There are 10 playoff caliber teams they will play which doesn’t bode well for any team. Roethlisberger looked like he was slowing down in the second half. His age may show again in the second half this season.
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