Handicapping NFL Football
The Pittsburgh Steelers are back with a vengeance in the AFC North after a disappointing finish in 2014. In what is going to be one of the toughest division races in all of football, the Steelers are ready to take the division and show AFC contenders they are going to have to go through Pittsburgh en route to the Super Bowl.
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AFC North Overview
It’s going to be a tough season for the North. With Baltimore and Cincinnati, the Steelers will get plenty of fine tuning on their way to a potential playoff run. Oh yeah, the Browns are in the division, too.
Why Pittsburgh will have the most wins in the AFC North
With three strong teams who have all made the playoffs in the couple seasons, the AFC North will be extremely difficult to win. The Steelers get the nod here because they quite possibly might have the hardest offense to stop.
They have the leading receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown. They have the top rusher in the AFC in Le’Veon Bell. They also have an improved defense which could possibly echo their Super Bowl 40 squad.
The team’s offseason moves mirror their confidence in their roster this year as they did not make many acquisitions via Free Agency. Running back DeAngelo Williams from Carolina signed as did quarterback Michael Vick. They added wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey from Indianapolis.
The 2015 NFL Draft was good to the Steelers who added outside linebacker Bud Dupree and wide receiver Sammie Coates as well as cornerback Senquez Golson, who they have since released, signaling the strength at the position.
Both Coates and Dupree step right into backup roles with the skillset to start when needed and help round out some strong position groups for the team.
The biggest news may have come from the team’s losses, though. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau departed the team. Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Jason Worilds all announced their retirement. They let receiver Lance Moore go.
These moves are coupled with the losses of Bell for two games and wide receiver Martavis Bryant for four games due to suspension. Also lost are kicker Garrett Hartley and center Maurkice Pouncey to injury. Pouncey can return by mid-season.
While this would spell trouble for most teams, the Steelers aren’t worried. They have more than capable receivers in Markus Wheaton and Coates to spell the loss of Bryant. The addition of Williams in the offseason counters the loss of Bell and Cody Wallace is a more than capable temporary replacement for Pouncey.
Steelers 2015 Prediction: 11-5
The Steelers are going to take some hits this season. Not only do they have four very tough games against the Ravens and Bengals, but despite the talent level, the Browns will play them tougher than usual as well.
On top of that, Pittsburgh will have to take on both Super Bowl teams from last season in New England and Seattle…on the road. Indianapolis and Denver will also challenge the Steelers this season, rounding out a gauntlet of potential playoff teams on the schedule.
The biggest factor in the prediction for winning the division is the fact that the three top teams will weaken each other along the way.
Splits in the AFC North are a normal occurrence annually and Pittsburgh will have to play extremely well outside of the division in order to make this a reality.
Pittsburgh is stocked and ready for their run at the division before looking ahead to the playoffs.
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