Pittsburgh is the defending AFC North champion, while the Bills 2020 campaign fell one game short of the Super Bowl. It wasn’t long ago that such a clash involving the Steelers would be considered a five-star match-up and one that the folks in Vegas would deem a toss-up.
That’s not the case for the Steelers in Week 1, as the oddsmakers aren’t showing them much love—they’re 6.5 point underdogs—and neither is anyone else, save for your garden variety diehard fan.
That’s right, whether you’re a Steelers hater or someone who is completely objective, you’re not giving them much of a chance against Buffalo, a team with an excellent offense, an opportunistic defense, and Josh Allen, a newly-minted franchise quarterback, complete with a $258 million contract and an arrow that appears to be pointed in the most positive direction.
The Steelers have a great defense, a questionable offense, a totally unproven offensive line, and Ben Roethlisberger, a 39-year old quarterback who may be “franchise” in name only, depending on who you ask.
The Steelers don’t enter the 2021 campaign as serious Super Bowl contenders; their ceiling appears to be third-place in the AFC North and possibly a wildcard berth—possibly.
Compounding matters even more is the overall health of the team heading into Week 1 with defensive end Stephon Tuitt and right tackle Zach Banner starting the year on Injured Reserve, while others, like outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, missed a day of practice this week.
Oh yeah, and you had the contract drama involving outside linebacker T.J. Watt, his teammates, Steelers’ fans and the local and national sports media that had everyone on edge until the 11th hour.
Training camp and the preseason may have convinced the Steelers internally that they have the right pieces and formula to compete in 2021, but the rest of the world hasn’t really changed its mind from how it felt on the evening of January 10, moments after Pittsburgh’s 2020 postseason was quickly squashed by the Browns in an AFC wildcard game at Heinz Field.
Just what kind of team are the Steelers? In my opinion, they’re one that is a few plays away from finishing anywhere between 7-10 and 11-6. That’s nothing new for most NFL squads, and it certainly hasn’t been for Pittsburgh over the past half-decade or so.
The Steelers are probably good enough to compete in 2021, but they’re probably not quite talented enough to convince most of the football experts, fans and observers of that..until they show them, that is.
All of the talking in the world isn’t going to convince the people who have doubted Pittsburgh’s legitimacy the entire offseason. The only way to change minds is to win games.
Will that happen in Week 1 against the Bills? Maybe. And if it does, it will go a long way in changing the perception many folks have about them. Would a victory mean that the Steelers are for real? Too early to say, obviously, but it might instill the players and coaches with a ton of confidence, and confidence sure is a tangible commodity for most sports teams.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what the public thinks of the Steelers' chances in 2021. They get to write their own story.
A win at Buffalo right out of the gate would be an enjoyable first chapter.