The Pittsburgh Steelers floor and ceiling are beginning to take shape after the schedule was announced. Last Wednesday, the NFL released the regular season schedule for all 32 teams. And the team with the hardest schedule based on opponent win percentage from last year is the Steelers. This is flipping the schedule on its head from 2020 when the Steelers had the second-easiest schedule.
Replicating the 11-0 start from last season isn’t likely with this season’s schedule. With that said, this is the Pittsburgh Steelers floor and ceiling post schedule release.
Pittsburgh Steelers Floor And Ceiling Post Schedule Release
Schedule At A Glance
For starters, this is the first year with 17 regular-season games instead of 16. Meaning if the Steelers win eight games, they’ll finish below .500 for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era. If they finish with nine wins, they’ll be above .500, but would likely need help from others to clinch a wild card birth.
The toughest part of the Steelers 2021 schedule is undoubtedly Weeks 13 through 18. The last six games include both games against the Baltimore Ravens and one against the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh has to face the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs on the road and host the Tennessee Titans aside from the division. The Vikings and Chiefs are two of the biggest home-field advantages in the NFL, which is something that matters again in 2021.
Before the last six weeks of the season, the Steelers will still have some tough games lined up. They start the season with the Buffalo Bills on the road. Then in Week 4, they have to face the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau. Their bye week comes earlier in Week 7, meaning they have to play 11 straight games to close out the season. That’s never an ideal scenario and hurts the Pittsburgh Steelers floor and ceiling for 2021.
Floor: Eight To Nine Wins And In The Wild Card Hunt
The floor for the Steelers is eight to nine wins and being in the wild card hunt. As I said earlier, Tomlin has never had a losing team in his head coaching tenure, and that carries weight. The floor is also this high out of respect to the top five scoring defense possessed by the Steelers a year ago. Although Steven Nelson and Bud Dupree are gone, there are enough difference-makers left on defense that should keep the unit in the top ten.
However, trap games could force their hand in the Pittsburgh Steelers floor and ceiling. In between the Week 4 Packers game and Week 6 Seattle Seahawks game, they face the Denver Broncos. That’s the perfect example of a trap game sandwiched in between two of the NFL’s elite.
The biggest thing that could improve the Steelers’ floor is their offensive line. Currently, their bunch is one of the rawest and most inexperienced across the entire league. It’s one of their glaring weaknesses and not ideal for a 39-year-old quarterback. Kendrick Green has big shoes to fill at center, and the line as a whole will have to get much better at run blocking so Najee Harris has room to contribute.
Ceiling: Ten Wins And Wild Card Berth
If the Steelers’ worst-case scenario is eight to nine wins, their best case is ten wins. The first reason I only give them one more win is the backup quarterback spot. I liked their draft and understand why they couldn’t draft a quarterback early. But if Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins end up playing snaps this year, the Steelers’ chances would’ve been better taking a rookie in rounds four through seven.
The AFC North is incredibly balanced, and that plays a role in the Pittsburgh Steelers floor and ceiling. The Cincinnati Bengals are gonna be competitive with Joe Burrow. Meanwhile, the Ravens and Browns are playoff locks who have number one seed potential. But knowing your rival is important, and there’s still plenty of veteran leadership that could help tip the scales in the Steelers’ favor in those rivalry games.
What raises the Steelers ceiling the most is the untapped potential on offense. There’s a new offensive coordinator in town, Matt Canada, who is tasked with modernizing the Steelers offense. Canada has lots of untapped potential to work with including sophomore Chase Claypool, third-year speedster Diontae Johnson and even JuJu Smith-Schuster who is on a one-year deal.
So far so good as Harris is already talking about being used everywhere on the field. For everything to work at its best, Roethlisberger won’t be able to get rid of the ball at the fastest rate in the NFL anymore. But there’s reason to believe Canada and Roethlisberger can bring out the best in their team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Floor And Ceiling Is Determined By Offense
The Steelers offense is the biggest unanswered question entering 2021. There’s a lot of inexperience around Roethlisberger, but there’s potential. How quickly that potential turns into play on the field determines if the Steelers can exceed expectations. The defense should still be good enough to keep the Steelers competitive most weeks. As long as Devin Bush and Alex Highsmith fill their roles, that won’t be the concern. In what could be Roethlisberger’s farewell season, he’ll have to rely on his talent around him more than ever before.