There’s a good case for the AFC North being as strong as it’s ever been right now. The Cincinnati Bengals are the back-to-back champions of the division, the Pittsburgh Steelers are right on their tail along with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
Winning this division for three years in a row is a seemingly impossible task. The crown will most definitely be up for grabs when the season arrives, and the Steelers have put themselves in position to take it back.
But not without a better passing game.
The growth of Kenny Pickett is critical, and it’s the expectation according to head coach Mike Tomlin. What can assist in a better passing game with Pickett leading the charge would be the reemergence of former second-round pick and 2015 Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson.
As Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated explains in his ranking of the AFC North rosters, Robinson didn’t live up to his previous contract with the Los Angeles Rams. By trading for the 29-year old wideout, the Steelers are buying low in hopes to spark their receiving corps, a reason for their roster being ranked fourth in the division according to Verdarame.
“While general manager Omar Khan did bring Robinson in to bolster the receiving corps, the veteran has been struggling the past two years. In 2021, Robinson caught 38 passes for 410 yards and one touchdown before signing a three-year deal with the Rams. He lasted one campaign in Los Angeles, totaling 33 receptions for 339 yards and three scores across 10 games before being dealt.” – Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame
The need to succeed through the air is becoming critical for Pittsburgh. The Bengals possess one of the best passing offenses in the game. The Ravens hired offensive coordinator Todd Monken to bring his vertical passing game to Lamar Jackson, and the Browns are expecting Deshaun Watson to return to form as one of the top QBs in the game.
Getting left behind as the fourth-best passing offense in the division is not a recipe for success. But there is plenty of hope for improvement. From Weeks 12-18 last year, the Steelers ranked fourth in EPA/drop back and 10th in drop back success rate, per RBSDM.com.
Taking that momentum from the end of the season, and combining it with Robinson playing in an ultimate prove-it year should give the Steelers the boost they need to stack up in the division.