By: Jonathan Clark
As the 2020 season winds down, we find ourselves on the wrong end of a disappointing year. Although, it is a good thing we don’t have to endure the wrath of the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns fans – as both their Lombardi hopes were shut down this past weekend. Now the #1 seed in the AFC Kansas City Chiefs and the #2 seed Buffalo Bills will face off this weekend. The winner will be crowned the champion of the AFC and find themselves in the Super Bowl a few weeks from now.
Obviously, we wish the circumstances were different. It felt like this was our season with Ben Roethlisberger coming back and paired with a top 5 defense in the NFL – it seemed destined for success and all of the pieces were lining up. I say this not to reminisce, but to remind us of everything we had going for us this year.
And I don’t say these things to discourage anyone, I just say them to reflect on what possibly could have been this season and relate that to the importance of seeding in the playoffs. Pittsburgh was well on their way to claiming the #1 or # 2 seed in the AFC, giving them the best chance to win a 7th Super Bowl. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in the playoffs, but we all know what kind of advantage those top seeds can bring.
All of Steeler Nation’s eyes are focused on the 2021 season. And with changes to the offensive side of the ball coming next year, our 20201 opponents are getting tougher and tougher by the moment. It will be an even bigger test than this year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on their AFC North opponents both at Heinz Field and away from their home field respectfully. Both Cleveland and Baltimore made the playoffs this year, obviously making three out of four of the AFC North teams represented in the playoffs. Both teams don’t look like they will be slowing down anytime soon. And the Cincinnati Bengals are just waiting for things to click with newly acquired franchise quarterback Joe Burrow under center. This division is getting harder each year, making it tougher for us to capture that crown.
The Steelers will also take on their foes of the AFC west. They’ll welcome the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos to Heinz Field, while traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers and Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Most of these teams are in rebuilding mode, so these games seem winnable. But traveling to Arrowhead will be a huge test of what this team will be capable of in 2021.
A newer opponent that will find themselves face to face with them Men of Steel are those in the NFC North – opponents that the Steelers have not seen in a couple of seasons. Pittsburgh will travel to Soldier Field and then to Ford Field to take on the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, while welcoming the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings to the home of the black and gold. Two out of the four teams in this division represented the NFC North in the playoff race – one of which is still competing for a championship. Three of the four teams have been in the playoff race the past couple of years, and winning these out-of-conference games could be what decides who will win the AFC North in 2021.
No one can say what will happen this year. We have yet to officially name an offensive coordinator. The return of Ben is still up in the air. There are a lot questions offensively that won’t be answered until the first snap of the 2021 season. There is no doubt next year’s schedule is one of the toughest in the league. This team is clearly built for a long playoff run, but they need to take care of business in the regular season. That will be what sets them up to be in the best position to capture a Lombardi Trophy in the playoffs.
Let us know how you think 2021 will treat the Steelers in the comments below!