PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7-1)
CAMP SITE: Latrobe, Pennsylvania
LAST YEAR: The Steelers reached the playoffs in QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, getting there with a mostly smoke and mirrors approach. The Steelers were 8-2-1 in one-score games and 1-5 when the margin was nine points or more. They were outclassed within the playoffs, getting blown out in Kansas City in Roethlisberger’s final game. While the defense struggled against the run — ending last — linebacker T.J. Watt looked price every penny of his record-setting contract, winning NFL Defensive Player of the 12 months after racking up an NFL-record tying 22 1/2 sacks. Rookie running back Najee Harris was every bit nearly as good as advertised, rolling up 1,667 total yards and 10 touchdowns. The passing game, nevertheless, was pedestrian a lot of the season and the lack to consistently get the ball downfield due to protection issues and a decline in Roethlisberger’s accuracy when going deep combined to make Pittsburgh predictable and sometimes overmatched against quality opponents.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Mitch Trubisky, QB Kenny Pickett, WR George Pickens, DE DeMarvin Leal, WR Calvin Austin III, LB Myles Jack, OL James Daniel, C Mason Cole, CB Levi Wallace, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Gunner Olszewski, GM Omar Khan (promoted to exchange Kevin Colbert), assistant GM Kevin Weidl. Senior defensive assistant Brian Flores.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Ben Roethlisberger (retired), DE Stephon Tuitt (retired), GM Kevin Colbert (retired), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR James Washington, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, TE Eric Ebron, LB Joe Schobert, OG Trai Turner, RT Zach Banner.
CAMP NEEDS: The Steelers return to Saint Vincent College for the primary time since 2019 this summer, and head to camp with an issue mark at quarterback for the primary time in a generation following Roethlisberger’s retirement. Maybe even greater than who the starter is can be cohesion within the trenches on each side of the ball. The offensive line has been revamped for the second time in as many seasons with the arrival of Daniel and Cole and the defensive position is hoping a completely recovered Tyson Alualu plus the late addition of Ogunjobi will give perennial Pro Bowler Cam Heyward some needed help.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: The three-way duel — for now — between Trubisky, Pickett and Mason Rudolph will dominate the conversation throughout August. Trubisky worked almost exclusively with the starters during organized team activities and minicamp, meaning if he’s going to be unseated, he’s going to must be outplayed by a substantial margin. There are few other truly vacant jobs up for grabs, though Ogunjobi — if healthy — might be in line to take nearly all of snaps at defensive tackle, which might let Alualu be more of a rotational player at age 35.
EXPECTATIONS: There’s a way offensive coordinator Matt Canada met Roethlisberger in the center last season by way of what the offense would appear like. Expect Canada so as to add several latest wrinkles now that he has a few quarterbacks that — while lacking Roethlisberger’s resume — will find a way to make plays outside of the pocket. The addition of Flores, who was fired by the Dolphins in January after which filed a class-action suit against the NFL for what he alleges are racist hiring practices, gives head coach Mike Tomlin one other brain to choose as he and first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin try to revive a little bit of toughness to a defense that was pushed around at times.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +7000
CLEVELAND BROWNS (8-9)
CAMP SITE: Berea, Ohio
LAST YEAR: Expected to make a run on the AFC title, the Browns flopped. There was distracting drama, costly injuries and questionable strategy as coach Kevin Stefanski’s second season was completely opposite from his first, when the Browns won a playoff game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield never recovered from a shoulder injury in Week 2, and Cleveland’s offense sputtered despite an outstanding line and playmakers. WR Odell Beckham’ Jr.’s messy release divided the locker room and fan base. Led by All-Pro DE Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defense continued to enhance through the season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, rookie K Cade York, DE Chase Winovich, QB Jacoby Brissett, C Ethan Pocic, rookie WR David Bell, P Corey Bojorquez, WR/KR Jakeem Grant.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, C JC Tretter, WR Odell Beckham Jr., K Chase McLaughlin, LB Mack Wilson, WR Rashard Higgins, CB Troy Hill, DT Malik Jackson, FB Andy Janovich, DT Malik McDowell, CB M.J. Stewart.
CAMP NEEDS: Watson’s availability stays unknown as camp approaches. Following months of legal issues and a hearing, the NFL’s disciplinary officer will determine whether he violated its personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by greater than two dozen massage therapists in Texas. If he’s suspended for multiple games, the Browns might want to get backup Jacoby Brissett ready to start out the season. And depending on the length of Watson’s punishment, the team could pursue other QB options.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: Cooper wanted out of Dallas and yearned to be a No. 1 receiver. He’ll get his probability with the Browns, who may lean more on their run-heavy attack should Watson be out. Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell are slotted in behind Cooper and must show they’re ready for expanded roles. Nick Harris takes over at center for the dependable Tretter, the NFLPA president released through the offseason. Cleveland’s No. 3 cornerback spot can be a battle between Greedy Williams and rookie Martin Emerson.
EXPECTATIONS: Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam went all-in with their trade for Watson — they gave up three first-round picks — and signed him to a five-year, fully-guaranteed $230 million contract. If their gamble pays off and Watson plays this season, the Browns are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If he’s out for an prolonged period, it might be one other wasted 12 months for considered one of the league’s most talented teams. The Sept. 11 opener in Carolina can be interesting with a possible matchup against Mayfield, who was traded by the Browns after 4 up-and-down seasons.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +3400
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