I want to make this perfectly clear at the start of this article so nobody is confused about what I'm about to say.
Now this might not shock a lot of you, or even be a real stretch of a prediction as the Steelers got to the AFC Title game last year, and currently sit at 12-1 in Las Vegas to take the title. But there is one road block that stands in their way, and it's the same one that has been facing this team for more than a decade.
Those dastardly New England Patriots.
Oh yeah, and that Tom Brady, the GOAT.
But that won't matter. None of it will. The stars are going to align and fall the Steelers way. How, do you ask, will that happen?
Let me give you three reasons why the Steelers will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy this coming February in Minneapolis.
1. Martavis Bryant & Antonio Brown will be playing together
Let me hit you with one stat that will blow your mind. When 'Avatar' (a nickname given to Bryant by Mike Tomlin) and AB play at the same time, the Steelers average nearly 7 yards per play. That over a 16-game season makes them so potent, even more potent than the Atlanta Falcons offense that averaged 6.7 yards per play last season, tops in the NFL.
At some point over the few weeks, Le'Veon Bell will come to Pittsburgh and get himself ready to play. He knows that he's playing for a big contract and if (a very BIG if) stays healthy, will only add to what should be the most powerful offense in the NFL.
Add what should be the best offensive line to protect Ben Roethlisberger, then you have what should be a rock star offense that by Week 4 will be humming on all cylinders and very hard to stop over 60 minutes, and 16 weeks, of football before the tournament begins in January.
2. The defense will improve with T.J. Watt & Bud Dupree starting
Simply put, these two young bucks have something to prove. Dupree grabbed 4.5 sacks last year, in 7 games. Watt is an unknown factor to this point, but I would expect him to provide a pass rush that's going to be needed to stop most offenses, including Tom Brady & the Patriots.
With a defensive line anchored by a healthy Cam Heyward and a much improved Stephon Tuitt, the front seven should get a better push and help the secondary by creating more pressure on opposing offenses and quarterbacks, limiting their time in the pocket to pick a part a defense that got exposed in Foxboro this past January.
3. The Steelers will secure home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs
Let's start with the AFC North. Barring some sort of disaster, check off two wins vs. Cleveland and both games vs. Cincinnati. Baltimore is always a tough out. In fact, the Steelers haven't swept a regular seasons series against the dirty birds since 2008, winning three games and taking SB XLIII.
Conversely, the Ravens have taken two season series since then (2011 and 2015) while winning a Super Bowl in the process. We all know these games are knock-down, drag out barroom brawls. Don't expect anything less? Baltimore is a train wreck this year. Joe Flacco may not start the year.
But that doesn't mean an easy road.
For the sake of argument, let's say the Steelers go 5-1 in division play. I can see a seasons sweep vs. the NFC North, including beating the Packers on a Sunday night in late November with 10 days off to prepare.
Now you are at 9-1. Add W's at home vs. the Jaguars and Titans, making them 11-1. Next you have road games at Kansas City, Houston & Indianapolis. For the sake of argument, the Steelers go 2-1. Now you sit at 13-2 and the Patriots game at Heinz Field in mid-December. That game will determine who's top dog heading into the playoffs.
It's going to be the Steelers year, and they will prove it on December 17th.
So there you have it. The Steelers should go 14-2, and most likely will need to in order to secure the home field advantage needed to have that extra edge when facing New England in what should be a rematch of the AFC Title game from last season.
Get ready to party Steelers fans. Lombardi No. 7 is just six months away.
John Phillips is the author of this article. JP's covered sports both in Pittsburgh and nationally for over 20 years. He's also a secret member of the Galactic Empire.