The franchise is at a crossroads.
Ben Roethlisberger’s contract is expensive. The star quarterback is past his prime and on the verge of retirement. Center Maurkice Pouncey, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, just retired himself.
So even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have a talented roster, with a defense that is among the best in the league, it’s hard to tell which direction next season will go.
DraftKings has the Steelers at +3000 in Super Bowl odds
Oddsmakers expect that the Steelers might be flirting with mediocrity next season. DraftKings Sportsbook has them at +3000 to win the next Super Bowl, a number that puts them tied for 15th (with the LA Chargers).
The optimism Pittsburgh generated with its undefeated start last fall seems to have dwindled ever since. Even the biggest source of offseason buzz, the possibility of signing free agent J.J. Watt to join his two other brothers in Pittsburgh (T.J. and Derek), seems to be in serious jeopardy.
Rumors on Twitter suggested that AFC North rival Cleveland is the frontrunner for him. And the odds at FanDuel Colorado support it. Cleveland is -150 to sign Watt. The Green Bay Packers are next at +195 followed by the Bills (+300). Pittsburgh is fourth in line at +400.
So help might not be on the way. But those willing to risk a futures ticket on the Steelers certainly have some evidence to support their cause.
A case for the glass being half full
For starters, Pittsburgh went 11-0 to start last season and still earned a playoff berth despite a slew of injuries on defense. T.J. Watt, who led the NFL in sacks, QB hits, and tackles for loss, will be back. Free agent Bud Dupree, the other defensive end opposite Watt, might also return if the Steelers can work some magic with a salary cap that they are expected to be well over.
And Roethlisberger will also be under center again. Big Ben will turn 39 in March, but he is still above average as a quarterback, good enough to win games with a strong defense behind him. In addition, the Steelers signed former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins as a back-up, giving the team some better depth behind the veteran signal caller.
So if you’re bold enough to take the Steelers on a futures wager, you have at least a few things to bolster your argument.
The Chiefs are expected to redeem themselves next season
Beyond Pittsburgh, the NFL futures board has a familiar team up top. The Kansas City Chiefs, who just got shellacked in this season’s Super Bowl, are the favorites to win next year’s championship at +525. The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are next at +900, followed by the Green Bay Packers at +1000, and the Buffalo Bills at +1200.
Philadelphia fans will find their beloved Eagles much farther down at +6000.
So despite a number of pressing questions, things could always be worse for the Steelers.
Maybe the team is at a crossroads.
But the final destination hasn’t been determined just yet.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar