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With under a week left before the start of the NFL regular season, football fans are starting to place their futures bets looking to cash out at the end of the year. After reviewing the hundreds of different lines and betting scenarios, one line stands out to me as the best bang for your buck. As of today, sportsbooks have the Pittsburgh Steelers at +1000 to win the AFC North. Offseason coverage of the Steelers has been very mixed leading up to Week 1. However, I believe Pittsburgh has not received close to the attention they deserve, and many will be left wondering why they did not place a bet before kickoff this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the AFC North outright, which can be proven with a deep dive into the organization as it stands leading up to Week 1.
Pittsburgh is synonymous with winning. Since 1960, the Steelers have the winningest record in the NFL, highlighted by six Super Bowl rings. Fans of the franchise expect this team to win, and more often than not, they will deliver on these expectations. Current head coach Mike Tomlin, who took over for Bill Cowher in 2007, has never led his Steelers teams to a losing record. This marks fifteen seasons of producing a competitive team that will always find ways to win. Alongside Tomlin’s accomplishments, there have only been three different head coaches for the franchise since 1969, building a proven culture around this team. It appears that oddsmakers are counting out Tomlin’s Steelers in the AFC North race, but with his current track record, I feel it is a no-brainer that the 2022 version of the Steelers will stay competitive throughout the season.
Young, Talented Offense
There are stars all over the field making up the 2022 Steelers offense. Under center, whether it be Trubisky or Pickett who gets the nod as Week 1 starter, both options have proven more than capable of commanding a high-powered offense after their respective preseason performances. Running back Najee Harris is looking primed for a stellar sophomore season. Adding more muscle this offseason, Harris will be the feature of this Steelers offense looking to return to its ground-and-pound ways and has proven to be the reliable three-down back Pittsburgh has been searching for. The Steelers also boast a very talented wide receiver room, consisting of their “veteran” in Diontae Johnson, a physical specimen in Chase Claypool, and exciting rookie George Pickens. Pittsburgh is known for their ability to draft well at wide receiver, and Pickens is proving to continue that reputation after showing out this training camp and preseason. Pittsburgh also added former Patriots gadget player Gunner Olszewski who will play a valuable role as both a slot receiver and special teams talent. I also have high expectations for second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has served as an athletic and reliable target in the middle of the field for this Steelers unit. The only glaring issue is the lineup front, which struggled all preseason with both run blocking and pass protection. If that unit can find any rhythm this season, this offense can be terrorizing to the rest of the AFC.
Modern Steel Curtain
Heading into the season, Pittsburgh is looking to build on its success with a star-studded unit. Highlighted by TJ Watt, the Steelers suffocating pass rush made up of Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and Tyson Alualu led the NFL last season with 55 combined sacks. Watt, who contributed 22.5 of those sacks, is coming off a record season and has the talent to be even more productive in 2022. Pittsburgh also added some talent this offseason, signing linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Levi Wallace. The secondary defense has been the Achilles heel of the Steelers in recent history, and the addition of Wallace helps a ton in strengthening a unit composed of Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton. At safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds have been a great tandem to round out the Steelers’ secondary, as Edmunds has constantly been improving since being drafted in 2018. Someone to watch this season is linebacker Devin Bush, a player that Pittsburgh traded up to draft in 2019. After a knee injury in 2020 and an underwhelming 2021 season, the former Michigan Wolverine is entering 2022 in a “prove it” year after not receiving a contract extension this offseason.
Overall this Steelers team has star power across both sides of the ball. With a strong, winning culture and a relatively favorable schedule, I will not be surprised when Pittsburgh shocks the AFC and steals the North from the Ravens and Bengals this season. Place your bets now, or regret not believing in Tomlin and the 2022 Steelers.