Steelers, Browns Going In Opposite Directions In Power Rankings

Kenny Pickett, Deshaun Watson, Steelers, Browns
NFL Analysis Network

There may not be a team that opened more eyes during the preseason in 2023 than the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the games don’t officially count, their level of performance was very high as they steamrolled through their opponents.

The Steelers went 3-0 and look poised to break out this season. Second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett was excellent, playing a nearly flawless preseason. His development will determine just how high this offense can fly.

Many people are beginning to buy in on the Steelers, including Eric Edholm of In his Week 1 NFL Power Rankings, Pittsburgh saw the biggest jump, moving up five spots into the No. 14 hole.

“I’m starting to wonder if this is too low. The Steelers were hot down the stretch last season, winning seven of their last nine games (including four straight at the end), and all they did this preseason was blowtorch their three opponents. The latter must be weighed carefully, but it was hard not to see how fluid and explosive the first-team offense looked (five TDs in five drives). The AFC North should be one of the best divisions, and the 49ers will be a stiff Week 1 test, but the schedule really does lay out nicely for Pittsburgh. All of this depends on Kenny Pickett making a Year 2 jump. Also, the defense needs to give up fewer big plays, but most arrows appear to point upward,” Edholm wrote.

Pittsburgh has a chance to announce their presence in Week 1 as they host the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers may be without key contributors in tight end George Kittle and edge rusher Nick Bosa, but they are considered by many to be the cream of the crop in the NFC.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Steelers AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns. They saw the biggest drop in the rankings, falling five spots down to No. 18.

“The Browns initially were my summer crush, the team I thought had the best chance to be this year’s 2022 Vikings. But as the days wore on, with kicking issues and injuries darkening my thoughts, my eyes started to wander. Deshaun Watson almost certainly will be better than the version we saw on the field last season. But by how much? The division has a razor-thin margin, and the Browns lost six one-score games a year ago. They can’t afford further kicking woes and disappointing QB play.”

The AFC North is going to be a battle all season as arguably the toughest division in the NFL. All four teams can have an argument made as to why they should be the favorites to win it, and as Edholm stated, there isn’t much room for error.

Error is all that the Browns have seemingly produced for years, while the Steelers have avoided such issues. If training camp and preseason were a sign of things to come, those trends will continue.