As we turn to a new season, new challenges will arise. There’s only so much contenders that we can have. Let’s take a look at some of the teams that could take a step back:
The Steelers were the last undefeated team in football last season. They looked so dominant at times, especially on defense last season, with superstars, pass rushers, and a talented back end. The offense was made up of Ben Roethlisberger and a collection of talented wide receivers. As the season rolled on it became glaring the ceiling of this team, with an offensive line that ranked in the bottom half and the running game practically nonexistent. Big Ben had to carry the offense throwing the ball 608 times, the second-most in the league only behind Matt Ryan. With no balance on offense and every team knowing they are one dimensional, they had no shot against the better team in the league.
Heading into the off-season, improving the offensive line, and retaining the services of the players that made the defence dominant had to be a priority. With very little money to work with due to the pandemic, putting every team in cap hell, the Steelers were forced to let a handful of talented football players hit the road this offseason. Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson head the list. The offensive line didn’t get better, and they lost their best lineman in Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler as they signed with the Ravens and Chargers, respectively.
The Steelers selected RB Najee Harris in the first round when notable offensive lineman prospects like Teven Jenkins and Landon Dickerson were still on board. It makes you wonder whether they feel they can make incremental progress with the talents in-house. OT Zach Banner re-signed with the team, and there are expectations he can be a difference-maker.
Coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in his career, so there is optimism there but in a division with bonafide contenders in the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore ravens, it tough to see how the Steelers can improve on last season.
New Orleans Saints
For the past decade, the Saints have been the epitome of consistency, at least in the regular season. Since the 2017 season, the Saints have tallied a 49-15 record, the best in the league in that span. With Drew Brees and Sean Payton running the offense, the floor of this team has always been high. After spending 15 seasons together, that duo is no more with Drew Brees retiring this offseason.
We have seen Sean Payton construct an offense with different quarterbacks whenever Drew Brees got injured, so there’s faith in him to build a competent offense with a combination of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. It’s been another remarkable off-season by the Saints, heading into the offseason, they were in cap hell but GM Mickey Loomis sprinkled in his magic dust and was able to bring back most of their top players by retaining Marcus Williams, Ryan Ramcyzk, and Marshon Lattimore.
Here’s the kicker, with a top-heavy roster like the Saints they had to lose a ton of depth with Trey Hendrickson, Kwon Alexander, and Emmanuel Sanders amongst a list of several veterans that departed this off-season.
Any sort of injuries could really impart the outlook of the season and we have to account for the division they are in. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers squarely entrenched as the top dog in the division, and the Falcons are expected to be competitive with a revamped coaching staff.
“It’s not a rebuild for us,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It might be what I would call a retool.”
Since Ryan Tannehill started in Week 7 of the 2019 season for the Tennessee Titans, the Titans have been among the elite teams in the AFC, culminating in a championship game in 2019.
Offensive coordinator turned head coach Arthur Smith had a major influence on the team. Smith deployed primarily a run-based offense supplemented by play-action. Tannehill shined in his system after a disastrous career with the Miami Dolphins. Smith is gone now, after securing the Atlanta Falcons job. I’m sure the Titans will implement most of Arthur Smith’s system, but those are big shoes to fill for Todd Downing, the new OC.
In addition to the loss of Arthur Smith, wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonny Smith departed in free agency. Without a doubt, the offense is going to have a different look. Derrick Henry and AJ Brown are the stables of this offense and the Titans should hope they can both stay healthy for the long and arduous season ahead.