I have forever been a fan of the work of Pat Kirwan, who once served in the front office for the New York Jets and as an NFL scout prior to that, but even I was a little shocked to read that his early 2013 NFL season predictions include the Pittsburgh Steelers squaring off against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship Game.
Kirwan wrote on CBS Sports Monday: "Pittsburgh is coming off an 8-8 season and someone mistakenly ranked Ben Roethlisberger 61st on the NFL top 100 list. Bill Cowher warned me that the poor top-100 ranking will motivate Big Ben this season. He was also quick to point out that Roethlisberger was on his way to a great season before being injured."
Kirwan does go on to say he thinks Denver will ultimately face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLVIII, but you more than likely won\'t see any analyst predict the Steelers will even make it that far moving forward.
Kirwan also writes that he thinks rookie running backs will play a big role in getting his projected final four teams deep into the playoffs and that of course includes Steelers second-round draft pick Le\'Veon Bell, who is expected to become the every-down running back at some point in 2013, if not by the start of it.
Assuming Kirwan thinks the Broncos will host the Steelers in the AFC title game, that would mean safety Ryan Clark would be more than likely be forced to miss the game due to his sickle-cell trait. If that were indeed to come to fruition, the Steelers would more than likely have to turn to either Robert Golden or fourth-round draft pick Shamarko Thomas to fill Clark\'s shoes, which would be no small task against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Predictions in early June are what they are, but being as the Steelers are currently 25-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this year, Kirwan certainly has effectively called his shot early in the offseason.