(Photo by Micheal Reaves/Getty Images)
Longtime NFL writer Peter King released his 2021 NFL power rankings today in his weekly Football Morning In America column and he has the Steelers ranked 19th, behind the likes of Arizona, Washington, Chicago, New England and Tennessee. King having the Bears ranked at No. 16 was pretty surprising.
Out of all the recent power rankings that have come out, the Steelers haven't been ranked as low as No. 19. King just doesn't see much hope for the Steelers in 2021 after seeing them collapse down the stretch last year, losing five of their last six games, including the embarrassing first-round playoff loss to the Browns at Heinz Field.
"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. "(Not the fact that they lost, but just the spectacle of Roethlisberger turning it over four times in the first 20 minutes to Cleveland and falling behind 28-0 to Cleveland and giving up 48 to Cleveland, with the Cleveland coach 130 miles away watching from his basement.) Now a remade offensive line and top pick Najee Harris will try to build a running game—the lack of which ruined 2020 for Pittsburgh—with new coordinator Matt Canada. 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. 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. Oh, and Diontae Johnson catching the ball this season would help too."
King also mentioned in his column that ranking the Steelers was a challenge, as it's really hard to predict their fate in 2021. They lost some key pieces on defense and they're going through a transition at offensive line, along with the unknown of how Ben Roethlisberger will perform at the age of 39. They got their feature running back in the draft with Najee Harris and the expectations for him to deliver in Year 1 are enormous.
"I think the team that was hardest to place for me in my NFL rankings was Pittsburgh," King wrote. "I’ll be surprised if the Steelers are really good, but if the offensive line isn’t a disaster and can block for Najee Harris, the Steelers could win a very tough division. Huge if, obviously. But I changed Pittsburgh’s slot three times in the last few days."
The pundits are down on the Steelers right now, but Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season and the Steelers have 17 consecutive non-losing seasons, which is the longest active streak in the NFL, so counting them out and believing that they'll be just downright awful could be unwise.