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Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to hold off the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North thanks to their 11-0 start. It was all for nothing as the team collapsed down the stretch and their season culminated with a 48-37 loss to the Browns in the first round of the playoffs.
NFL Network has ranked the most vulnerable reigning division champs and to no one’s surprise, The Steelers checked in at No. 2 overall and the most vulnerable in the AFC.
We saw a precursor to the changing of the guard taking place in this division in the playoffs, when the Browns rolled to a stunning 48-37 victory over a Steelers team that crumbled following an 11-0 start to the 2020 season. Cleveland returns the majority of a team (with some key additions on defense) that looks like a bona fide Super Bowl contender, led by reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski. And let’s not forget about the Ravens, who continue to enjoy superpower status under Lamar Jackson and could look even more imposing in 2021, with pass catchers Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman rounding out the offense. As for Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger still has good football left in him at age 39 — but I worry about that offensive line (which returns only one proven starter, David DeCastro) and a defense with suspect depth.
In a highly competitive AFC North, it is all about getting better every season. Are the Steelers a better team right now than they were last season? This is highly debatable but you can certainly see where the Browns and Ravens improved their rosters this offseason. The Steelers have a brutal schedule ahead of them and repeating as AFC North champs feels like a longshot.