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ESPN suggests the Steelers are “still a year away” from contending for a Super Bowl

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a disappointing 2020 season, but ESPN suggests they might not be as bad off as many predict.

Wild Card Round - Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 season has left fans jaded and dejected at the prospects of getting to another Super Bowl anytime soon. After the 11-0 start to the year, the team fizzled out by losing 5 of their last 6, capped off by an abysmal performance against the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs.

In a recent ESPN article, the so-called experts at the world wide leader in sports give a label to each of the 32 NFL organizations as to how they look as far as being contenders. The following categories were used by ESPN in the article:

Current Contenders
On the cusp
One year out
Two years out
Three years out
Four or five years out

When it comes to current contenders, you can imagine the teams would would fall on that list. The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and even the Buffalo Bills. But where do the Steelers fall on this list?

How about being “one year out”. Check out what ESPN had to say about the Steelers being categorized as close, but not there yet.

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2010

2020 FPI rank: No. 9

Strategy for becoming a Super Bowl contender: Team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers weren’t going to enter a tear down and rebuild phase after the shocking loss in the wild-card round. They’re still building a team with an eye on a championship in the near future, even if that’s somewhat unrealistic with a salary cap crunch keeping them from re-signing their most important free agents. They’ll have to restructure and extend contracts while cutting other veterans to keep as much of the core together. Rooney said the Steelers will keep as much of the defense together as possible while looking at significant turnover on the offensive side.

Biggest X factor: The quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger’s best shot at one more Super Bowl was the 2020 season. That run fell short, but Roethlisberger’s contract runs through the 2021 season. Rooney said Roethlisberger can’t return with the contract’s current construction of a $41.2 million cap hit, meaning he’ll either take a pay cut or a restructure if he doesn’t retire. The Steelers’ future hinges on Roethlisberger’s decision. Either he returns for one more season or he retires and they have to turn it over to Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins or another quarterback — an addition Rooney acknowledged was necessary.

Being “one year out” might sound good, but, at the same time, if Ben Roethlisberger plays just one more year, considering the Steelers contenders as their franchise quarterback calls it a career might be wishful thinking.

At this point, you might be wondering where the rest of the AFC North fell on this spectrum. Well, here you go:

Baltimore Ravens: On the cusp
Cleveland Browns: One year away
Cincinnati Bengals: Four plus years out

What do you think? Do you foresee the Steelers being just a year out from truly contending? Do you think they could contend in 2021 if Roethlisberger returns? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.