Another day goes by, and another AFC team adds a All-Pro player. This time it was the Tennessee Titans landing a deal to secure Julio Jones’ services. Not only are the Titans an opponent on the Steelers 2021 schedule, but they will be a strong competitor to land one of the AFC playoff spots. But it wasn't just the Titans who have upgraded their roster In the 2021 offseason, but the majority of AFC contenders.
Kicking things off with the two time defending AFC champion, Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs not only completely rebuilt their offensive line, but feature a backup unit arguably better than the Steelers starting group. The list of newcomers include tackle: Orlando Brown Jr., guards Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, Trey Smith, and a returning Laurent Duverney-Tardif, and centers Austin Blythe and Creed Humphrey (those are just the new players). The Chiefs former weakness is now a position of strength, and they managed to do this without losing hardly anyone.
Next let’s look at the AFC runner up Buffalo Bills. The Bills are virtually returning an identical team from the 2020 season. Their biggest losses include John Brown, who was replaced by Emmanuel Sanders, and an aging Trent Murphy, who will be replaced by first and second round draft picks. Long story short, the Bills are a high chemistry team gearing up to knock the Chiefs off their perch atop the conference.
The Colts and Titans also had big 2021 offseason’s. The Colts are hoping Carson Wentz returning to Frank Reich’s offense will bring him back to his MVP candidate days. Indy also brought in Eric Fisher to replace a retired Anthony Castonso. As for the Titans, they may have lost Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis but they landed Bud Dupree and Julio Jones. The Titans’ offense will be one of the biggest and most physical groups in NFL history and should be feared.
As for the Steelers AFC North competition I would argue the Baltimore Ravens took a step backwards after losing Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Skura, and never really committed to fixing their receiving corps. But the Browns were once again big time offseason winners landing star safety John Johnson, Troy Hill, and Jadeveon Clowney while also having yet another draft class many ‘experts’ went gaga over.
We also can't forget to mention the New England Patriots who attempted to sign every free agent and managed to land a number of them. They also brought back what was a league leading 8 opt-out players from the 2020 season, and possibly found their next quarterback in Mac Jones via the 2021 NFL Draft. The Patriots will not be flirting with .500 for a second consecutive season.
This brings me to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The only positions I would say they improved are at running back, guard (addition by subtraction) and tight end. I feel they remained the same at quarterback, receiver, defensive line, safety, and middle linebacker. And as we sit here right now, I will tell you they got worse at outside linebacker, corner, center, and tackle. On paper the Steelers’ roster is weaker than a season ago. Thankfully they will feature a new offensive scheme, which must be better than the ineptitude that was Randy Fichtner’s offense, also known as ‘Randyland’. Factor in the toughest schedule in football and I think it’s fair to think the Steelers will take a step back in the AFC rankings. But with 7 team playoffs now the norm, they will have a shot at the playoffs but will need to get red hot come January to do anything.
But what do you think? Will the Steelers take a step back in 2021? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.