For years, decades really, the Pittsburgh Steelers were among the safest teams in the NFL to place a futures bet on. And if you routinely bet on them, chances are they won you something most of the time.
If you didn’t believe in them initially, chances are you became a believer in them. Here are the Steelers, teetering not just in the futures betting niche but in all facets of the NFL. Gone are the guaranteed wins against Cleveland. Gone are the thrilling victories that often won them the AFC North Crown. And gone is a Steel Curtain, or a ‘Still Curtain,’ who almost always bailed out their offense.
With Ben Roethlisberger returning, the Steelers may remain decent futures bets. But is the window closing? Today’s post will break it down.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Upside for the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have 3 quarterbacks on the roster capable of starting for any NFL franchise in Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, and Dwayne Haskins.
Obviously, Roethlisberger gives the Steelers the best chance to win. He can still play, evidenced by his stellar statistics over the first 3 months of the 2020 season, along with his 11-0 record.
The Steelers can remain a decent futures bet in all facets. One player can’t make a bad team. But one player can elevate a team with a talent level that’s halfway decent. Like the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger still gives the Steelers a fighting chance against their toughest division rivals in the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
Oh, and they must also face the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. You guessed right if you thought they had a tough schedule to contend with.
Add in the Green Bay Packers, and Steelers will play 7 teams that won 10-plus games AND made the playoffs in 2020. Sure, Rudolph and Haskins can start. But it’s possible they would end up 0-7 against some of the league’s toughest teams.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Downside
Ben Roethlisberger may have led the Steelers to a stellar 11-0 start in 2020. Only he floundered to a 1-5 finish down the stretch. Or better yet, a 1-4 finish, considering Mason Rudolph played in the last game against Cleveland.
But still, the Steelers finished 1-5 in what has become one of the biggest collapses in NFL history, perhaps next to the 2003 Minnesota Vikings who missed the playoffs after a 6-0 start.
Worse, Ben showed his age after the 11-0 start. While he held an 8 to 4 touchdown to interception ratio, his completion percentage dropped under 63 percent 3 times.
In 2 games, it dipped below 70. From the 10th game until the 15th game, his yards per attempt dropped under 7. And in 5 of those games, it was under 6, well into the infamous “Blaine Gabbert Zone.”
Sometimes, we can blame the defense.
It was a true offensive collapse, unlike any other. And given Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers during the span, especially when compared with those he put up during his first 10 games, he can shoulder much of the blame.
So, what must the Steelers do to win the AFC North and remain solid futures bets?
The next section will explain.
To Win the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers Must…
Revert to the team they were during Ben Roethlisberger’s formative years. It’s a tough pill for Steeler fans to swallow, but Ben played little part in helping the team eclipse a 15-1 record in 2004 and winning the Super Bowl in 2005.
Instead, he threw the ball 295 times in 2004 and just 268 times in 2005. He wasn’t asked to do much more than to turn around and give the ball to his backs while the offensive line helped move the sticks. The second incarnation of the Steel Curtain was also in full effect.
But we have given him far more credit than due. Thank Willie Parker and the Bus, Jerome Bettis. And thank one of the league’s finest defensive units for that run in 2004 and 2005, which culminated in a Super Bowl Championship.
And the formula worked. Now that Roethlisberger’s stats are dwindling, it’s time to return to the smashmouth game. Best yet, the Steelers have a defense that can make this work. And it’s a huge plus for this football team.
Problem is, they have no running game. James Conner is probably gone.
So look for the Steelers to take their pick in what is a deep running back class in the 2021 NFL Draft. Perhaps they’ll even take a second back and work this thing out of a committee.
Sure, they’ll need a few more puzzle pieces on defense. But with a solid pass-catching unit and the potential to land something big in the NFL Draft at running back, the Steelers can still make a run.
However, this defines AFC North football at its finest. Build the game around the run and the defense, throw the ball when needed with a gadget quarterback.
Mayfield and Jackson have succeeded in such schemes. But neither has accomplished what Ben has, which is winning the Super Bowl.
But, you need to pay attention to them in free agency.
- Will the draft or sign solid offensive linemen and running backs?
- Can they fill in the few holes on defense?
- And are they cool with turning Ben back into a gadget player?
How the Pittsburgh Steelers Stack Up Against the AFC North
Perhaps no other team has a harder track to repeat as division champions than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns smell blood in the water, and each may pose as better futures bets for the AFC North, Over/Under, and even the NFL playoffs.
The Browns proved it in 2020 when they came into Pittsburgh and pulled off the upset. Worse yet, the Browns had the Steelers’ mighty defense figured out for most of the contest.
Given their late-season collapse along with the Browns and Ravens, each winning on Wildcard Weekend, the Steelers may be the AFC North’s third-best team regardless if Ben Roethlisberger is here.
Sure, he still gives the Steelers the best chance to win. But let’s be honest – they couldn’t even beat the Ryan Finley-led Cincinnati Bengals in which Ben had one of the worst games of his career. The Browns and Ravens aside, the Bengals may also pose as a threat to the Steelers.
In the AFC North’s basement. Farfetched as it sounds, it’s now a legit possibility. And don’t let it shock you if it happens.
Ben Roethlisberger will probably make the Pittsburgh Steelers into at least a halfway-decent futures option. But as you can see, the window is closing fast, and if his age shows or if the Steelers rely too much on him, the Steelers can easily find themselves out of playoff contention.
Safer as far as paper goes. However, they’re nowhere near as safe of a bet as they have been in the past. The Browns and Ravens may be better options if you’re looking to place a futures bet on an AFC North team.
What are your thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers? Are they still among the league’s safest bets at online sportsbooks? Or have they finally run their course?