5 bold predictions for Steelers, AFC North in 2024

These predictions aren't likely to happen, but they certainly are not impossible.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

We've reached the point in the offseason when we can't help but look forward to the start of meaningful football. Steelers OTAs are in the books and we will soon enter the longest football-less drought of the year.

In the meantime, it's never too early to make some bold predictions for the 2024 season. Now that roster has been retooled and draft picks have been added to the team, we are getting a clearer picture of how things could be impacted for teams this season.

Of course, there's no guarantee that every roster change will make a significant impact. Other players are primed for massive seasons, and Pittsburgh could find themselves in another tight divisional race in 2024. Here are five bold predictions for the Steelers and the AFC North this season.

T.J. Watt takes home his second DPOY award

T.J. Watt was a few votes away from earning his second Defensive Player of the Year award following the 2023 season -- an honor that ultimately went to Cleveland Browns pass rusher, Myles Garrett. While star defenders like Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby are still looking for their DPOY, I'm predicting Watt will take home this prestigious award for the second time.

Watt has led the NFL in sacks in three of the past four seasons (the only time he didn't was in 2022 when he missed the first half of the season with a pectoral injury). Though Watt turns 30 in October, he's still in the prime of his career, and he's going to want this more than anyone.

George Pickens skyrockets to 1,400 receiving yards

In 2023, George Pickens found a way to rake in 1,140 yards and 5 touchdowns with Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph throwing him the football. Not only that, but Pickens was also at the mercy of Matt Canada's suspect play-calling and route design.

Now the Steelers have a new offensive coordinator who has historically funneled targets through one primary receiver. This could be a great thing for a player like Pickens. The fact that he somehow managed 10.8 yards per target as a 22-year-old with everything he dealt with in 2023 is a miracle in itself.

Pickens could jump from 'breakout year' to being considered one of the best wide receivers in the AFC in 2024. I think he could go off for 1,400 yards this season.

Ravens finish last in the AFC North

This is quite a bold prediction, I know. The Ravens are the one team in the AFC North we can routinely count on to be in the mix for the division title. But because of what other divisional teams have going for them, they could fall flat in 2024.

The Bengals were already a 9-8 team last season, and they will be getting back Joe Burrow (who is healthy and ready to go). Meanwhile, the Browns have a talented roster. If Deshaun Watson takes the next step, this 11-win team from 2023 could rise above the Ravens.

The Steelers have had as much roster turnover as nearly any team in the league, and their changes make them a much better roster on paper. It's unlikely to happen, but I can see a world where John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens finish last in the league's best division.

Bengals win the division title

Speaking of the AFC North, I would love to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers will claim the title this year. However, I think that honor could be headed to the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow is one of the top early favorites for Comeback Player of the Year, and he has already led his team to a Super Bowl appearance once.

Additionally, the Bengals have bolstered their roster, and Burrow could take advantage. Suddenly, their offensive tackles consist of long, powerful players like Orlando Brown, Trent Brown, and Amarius Mims. Burrow should have better protection than he's ever had in the NFL, and it could result in a monster season.

Steelers make the playoffs

Though I'm not predicting the Steelers to win the AFC North this year, I do think they could sneak into the playoffs. Oddsmakers would suggest Pittsburgh is on the outside looking in, but this team hasn't had a losing record since before Mike Tomlin took over and we know the pressure is on after a six-year drought without so much as a single postseason win.

Tomlin won't be alone, as his new-look roster will help him crack the playoffs as a Wild Card team. We can't expect the Steelers to go 5-1 in the AFC North again this year, and their schedule down the stretch is brutal. Regardless, this is a team that knows how to stay competitive, and a playoff appearance is attainable.