Just this past week, Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports surprisingly predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers would face the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game in 2013. On Saturday, Mark Schlereth of ESPN was asked to predict the six teams in the AFC that he thinks will make the playoffs and his choices included a few surprises.
Of the six teams that made the playoffs in 2012, Schlereth has the Broncos, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals all making it again in 2013. Because of their losses via free agency on the defensive side of the ball, Schlereth thinks the Ravens will not return to the playoffs in 2013, as the target on them will be too tough to overcome. He also thinks the Indianapolis Colts overachieved last season and has them watching the postseason on television alongside the Ravens.
When asked which two teams that didn\’t make the playoffs last year, will this year, the former Broncos lineman chose the Steelers and the Miami Dolphins.
You look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensively; I know they\’ve lost some people, but they have Dick LeBeau – defensive coordinator is phenomenal,” said Schlereth. “They\’re always going to be one of those top teams in the league as far as defense is concerned because of the style that they play with, and because they\’re so tied together on that side of the ball.
“Offensive line health, that\’s been the biggest issue and because of the health, Ben Roethlisberger has taken a beating. I think they\’re going to be healthy this year. They\’re back in control of that division, and I think they go to the playoffs.”
His favorable prediction for the Steelers aside, Schlereth has always been pretty objective since becoming an analyst, and it\’s hard to argue with the reasons he gave Saturday for each of the teams that he discussed.
It\’s still way early in the offseason, but it appears some of the more knowledgeable “experts” really believe that the Steelers have a good shot at returning to the playoffs after missing them last year with an 8-8 record.
You can watch the full video of Schlereth\’s picks below: