ESPN yesterday unveiled their 2014 NFL Future Power Rankings, which predicts and ranks each NFL team according to who is best positioned for success in the near future, over the course of the next three seasons. The Pittsburgh Steelers fared better than you might think in this ESPN Insider feature.
In last year’s Future Power Rankings edition, the Steelers were positioned in the 14th spot, coming off an 8-8 season that featured a 2-5 slide in the second half of the season thanks to an injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers jumped up to seventh place this season, despite the fact that they are again coming off an 8-8 season. The fact that they finished the year 6-2 and just barely missed the playoffs no doubt had some influence on that.
According to the article, each team is judged based on five criteria, weighted differently. They are judged based on the strength of their quarterback situation, the rest of the roster, the latest draft class, factoring in draft reputation, front office management, and coaching performance and stability.
The Steelers’ grades improved in every measure from a year ago, in some cases significantly. They were given an overall grade of 79.91, with both the quarterback position and coaching staff receiving the team’s highest individual grades of 9.1.
Mike Sando writes that the improved outlook of the quarterback position has a lot to do with the Steelers moving up in the rankings. A year ago, Roethlisberger suffered a serious injury, and when he returned for the final four games, he certainly looked diminished, leading the Steelers to a 1-3 record while throwing crucial interceptions.
He didn’t look much better for the first four games of the 2013 season either. His costly turnovers had a lot to do with the Steelers losing those games, although the offensive line also had him constantly running.
Mel Kiper believes that the player to keep your eyes on for the Steelers over the next few years will be defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is expected to eventually inherit the left defensive end position, when he’s ready for it. The rookie was an underclassman whose final season was bogged down by injury and caused him to fall in the draft.
Still, Louis Riddick raises the point that much of the Steelers’ projected future can hardly be guessed at from where we currently stand. We’re discussing players such as Tuitt, Mike Mitchell, and Jarvis Jones reforming an old and slow defense, yet we’ve hardly seen anything from these players. Their future in Pittsburgh can make or break the team.
The powers that be over as ESPN believe that the Steelers’ future looks much brighter in 2014 than it did in 2013, raising their overall score nearly 15 points during that time, up from 65.71. Much of that depends on young players that we haven’t seen much from.
But it’s also true that the stability of the coaching staff and a franchise quarterback at the top of his game are enough to keep the Steelers dangerous for the next few years, even if they ultimately fall short.