When the early odds for Super Bowl 51 were released, it was no surprise there was a three-way tie for the best odds in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots all posted 8-1 odds of winning next year's Super Bowl. Such a simple fact must have been lost among those who vote on the Power Rankings at ESPN.com, as their "Way too early Power Rankings" for next year doesn't even have the team in the Top 5.
In fact, the Steelers are placed in the 6th spot in the latest Power Rankings. See how ESPN justified their position with Pittsburgh:
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
2015 record: 10-6
Why they're here: It's hard to bet low when Mike Tomlin is entering his 10th season and has finished under .500 zero times. The Steelers had one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2015 ... without Le'Veon Bell. He'll be back, the ridiculous corps of wide receivers will be too, and Big Ben will be healthy. A defense that has transitioned young is improving and will return Senquez Golson.
What could change: The Steelers face a major cap crunch, among the worst in the NFL. In short order, they could lose up to six starters in free agency, including a pair of starting offensive linemen, in front of a QB that is too often playing hurt. They might need to be creative just to keep Heath Miller. Heeeeaaatth sounds a little like not very deeeeeep.
ESPN does a great job of pointing out who the Steelers could be missing in 2016. Players like Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Robert Golden, Will Allen and Sean Spence are all free agents. On top of that, players like Lawrence Timmons and Heath Miller might have to restructure their deals with the team if they expect to return in 2016.
What ESPN is forgetting is who the Steelers will have back healthy next year. Maurkice Pouncey, Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and hopefully Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers offense could be the best unit in the NFL, by a large margin. Roethlisberger, Bell, Williams, Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Miller, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Jesse James could make for an extremely dynamic unit.
The defense will continue to be an issue, but with a few additions via free agency and the draft, there is hope this unit could become a Top 10 unit, which is all you need to contend in today's NFL.
What might be the most disturbing are the teams ranked over the Steelers. Take a look at the Top 10 of ESPN's latest Power Rankings:
1. Carolina Panthers
2. New England Patriots
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Denver Broncos
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Minnesota Vikings