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ESPN 2015 NFL future power rankings place Pittsburgh 5th overall, 2nd in AFC

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Steelers improve over last year and have a bright future for the next three years, according to ESPN.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN scored all 32 teams based on the team's roster, quarterback, draft performance, front office and coaching and used the results to predict teams' future performance over the next three seasons. By those metrics, the Green Bay Packers were ranked first in the NFL with the Seahawks coming in second. The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers rounded out the top five.

The Steelers are on the upswing according to the Future Power Rankings. Last season, they experienced an increase of 14 points, while this season they jumped just over two points. The Steelers gained points for coaching, as ESPN said, "Despite parting with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau."  I would argue that their coaching is stronger because of Dick LeBeau's departure, not despite it.  LeBeau's innovations had become rather stale and predictable and the defense under LeBeau was in a steady state of decline.

ESPN did point out, however, that the Steelers fate rests in the hands of the defense and players such as DL Stephon Tuitt, OLB Bud Dupree, ILB Ryan Shazier and S Shamarko Thomas. There are more players who will need to step up and make a difference, particularly when it comes to the secondary. I would also argue that Jarvis Jones is entering a make-or-break season during which his abilities and contributions will determine whether or not he is viewed as a boom or bust.

The Steelers scores for draft and QB remained stagnant over last year, while they did experience a five-point increase for their roster. Though the team lost several key veterans, the three-year outlook is much improved by having a younger crop of players on the team.

The Broncos experienced one of the biggest declines in ranking this year, mostly due to a thirty-point loss at quarterback. Manning is showing signs of age and it is likely that the Broncos will need to procure another quarterback to remain competitive in future years.

Around the AFC North, the Ravens were ranked fourth overall just ahead of the Steelers, while the Bengals came in eighth, moving up five spots, despite a drop in score over last year. The Browns were part of the caboose at #30, losing 12 points from last year overall, and 30 alone at the quarterback position.