To say the Pittsburgh Steelers are underrated might be a weird sentence to read. The word “underrated” has not been associated with the Steelers very often over the last two decades. At least not until this season.
This season, dogging the Steelers has been the norm. Almost every big name at whatever sports media site you can think of has been down on the Steelers. “They won’t make the playoffs,” “it’s Ben Roethlisberger‘s fault the Steelers were bad last year,” are a few examples. Oh, and don’t forget the offensive line, because the national media certainly isn’t. Most of them seem to believe that the offensive line will be downright awful, or somehow worse than last year. It won’t be.
If you need concrete examples, look to Colin Cowherd, who has the Steelers going 7-10, or Mina Kimes, who recently posted a clip on Twitter saying, among other detrimental comments about the Steelers, “I don’t care if he is the second coming of Adrian Peterson,” Najee Harris “isn’t going anywhere behind that offensive line.”
The Steelers are underrated by almost everyone and anyone. Should they be? Or is it deserved?
The Steelers are underrated, should they be?
When asking this question, it’s important to determine what exactly “underrated” means. In this case, it simply means that most people have lower expectations for the Steelers than they should. The Steelers have everything they need to exceed what sports betting sites and the national sports media typically believe the Steelers will be. Yet, the Steelers remain underrated.
Do the Steelers deserve to be underrated?
It depends. Looking at the first eleven games of the 2020 NFL season, the Steelers had not lost a game. In the following five games, the Steelers won only one game. And then were blown out in the first quarter by the Cleveland Browns, who took advantage of perhaps the worst quarter of football ever played by a team.
Depending on which of those points in the 2020 season you keep in your mind, you will believe either that the Steelers were overrated when they were 11-0. Or that the Steelers simply could not run the ball, and their 39-year old quarterback who just came off elbow surgery was getting physically tired of throwing the ball.
Most people seem to subscribe to the first of the two memories. And that is fine, the Steelers certainly did not finish out the season last year like an 11-0 team. But they did not play like a team that had not won a game either. But they certainly stumbled across the finish line to end the season. And that has deservedly been prominent in the minds of the national medial. Accordingly, those pundits have lowered their expectations for the Steelers.
So far, almost every major betting site, including Fanduel, DraftKings, Caesers Sportsbook, and BetMGM has the Steelers with the third-best odds to win their division. The Steelers have the 18th best odds to win the Super Bowl, behind the likes of the New England Patriots, Los Angles Chargers, and Tennessee Titans. The Steelers are also outside the top-17 teams in odds to make the playoffs, behind teams like the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers are underrated, not only by the national sports media, but by sports betting too.
The Steelers deserve to have their expectations lowered, going off the end of the 2020 season. But not that low. Why not? Well, because the Steelers were better last year than the national media believes. In fact, the Steelers were outright great for much of the season in 2020. Until it fell apart when teams realized the Steelers could not run the ball and were using short passes to substitute. However, that is why the Steelers drafted Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NL
Should the Steelers still be underrated?
Not really. This team has never had a losing season under Mike Tomlin, who had Devlin Hodges as his quarterback for half a season. The Steelers have an elite defense. And when people say that the Steelers defense is going to regress, they ignore the moves that the Steelers have made throughout the offseason that say otherwise.
The Steelers signed Melvin Ingram to a one-year, three million dollar deal late in the offseason. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Ingram looks like he is back to his pro-bowl ways. Alex Highsmith, who replaced Bud Dupree when he tore his ACL, has been more than capable and looks like a budding star.
The Steelers have also completely revamped their offensive line. Only one starter from 2020 remains on the line. Add to the mix a new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, and star running rookie running back, Najee Harris. The Steelers’ offensive woes are not going to make a resurgence from last year. If anything, they should be more of a strength this season than a weakness.
Should the Steelers stay underrated? No. The Steelers won’t complain of course. But the Steelers should not be underrated anymore. The offseason moves that they have made, their reputation as an organization, their head coach, and the talent they have just cannot be disrespected anymore. They are not the third-best team in their division, which they won last year behind a terrible offensive line. The Steelers are also one of the best seven teams in the AFC, which is all they need to be in order to make the playoffs.
NFL teams are a lot more bullish on the Steelers than most of the national media. That’s for a good reason. They know the Steelers are not a team to forget about. The Steelers are underrated. Should they be? Not at all.
What should you expect from the Steelers in 2021? Definitely not an 11-0 start. Something closer to finishing the season at an 11-6, 12-5 range is more appropriate. They have a very good chance to win their division. The only team that they lost to last year when playing their starters were the Cincinnati Bengals.
They did lose to the Browns to end the season but were not playing any starters, and still almost won. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers do much better than you expect. Even though the Steelers are underrated does not mean they should be.