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How Steelers Can Contend For AFC North (And Super Bowl?) Title In 2024

Pittsburgh improved its quarterback room and added a defensive star

It won’t be easy.

But Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers have exceeded expectations time and time again.

Their improved quarterback room and highly-talented defensive group could help them do so again.

The Steelers enter the 2024 NFL campaign as a longshot to win the AFC North (+750 on FanDuel) and have the NFL’s hardest strength of schedule, according to Sharp Football Analysis. That’s because the division likely will be the toughest in football.

Three AFC North teams — the defending champion Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Steelers — qualified for the postseason last year. The Cincinnati Bengals, the only AFC North team that didn’t make the playoffs, was without star quarterback Joe Burrow for the final seven games due to a season-ending injury.

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The Bengals now have the third-shortest odds (7-1) to win the AFC behind only the Chiefs and Ravens. Two of the three teams with the shortest odds to win the conference are in the same division as the Steelers.

Again, it won’t be easy.

But it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Pittsburgh is in the mix in late December. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the Steelers eclipse their win total (O/U 8.5), either.

Arguably the biggest reason is their offseason overhaul at the game’s most important position.

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Quarterback Russell Wilson will compete with 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields to earn the right to start behind center. Tomlin voiced confidence in Wilson, who arrives in Pittsburgh after an underwhelming tenure with the Denver Broncos, but questions remain. Regardless, it’s fair to think Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation is better in 2024 than it was when Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph made up the depth chart. The Steelers went 10-7 with that trio, including going 5-1 in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh traded Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers this offseason but still has talent at the skill positions. George Pickens, who compiled 1,140 yards on 63 receptions last season, should benefit from more targets. Third-round rookie Roman Wilson and tight end Pat Freiermuth also serve as capable pass-catchers. And the running back room of Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and offensive threat Cordarrelle Patterson could present some challenges, especially with an improved offensive line headlined by 2024 first-round left tackle Troy Fautanu.

Not to be forgotten, however, is a defense that allowed the sixth-fewest points in 2023. First-team All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt, who finished last season with 19 (!) sacks, is the head of the snake in the Steel City. But the addition of linebacker Patrick Queen, formerly of the Ravens, represented one of the biggest offseason moves. Not only did the Steelers add a 2023 Pro Bowler to their defense, but they took him from a division rival. Now, the tandem of Watt and Queen could represent one of the best front-seven duos in football.

Four-time Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick should get back to patrolling the defensive backfield given it’s a priority of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. And veteran defensive end Cameron Hayward should return to form, too, after a groin injury last season.

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There’s reasons to be high on the Steelers entering the season, despite of the gauntlet that awaits.

Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images