Steelers Insider Predicts ‘Ironic’ Twist for the 2023 Season

Mike Tomlin coaches from the sideline.

The 2023 season is a critical one for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not that every season isn’t, but with a second-year quarterback in Kenny Pickett and a nice offseason roster haul, the team should be improved over last year.

The Steelers, like a lot of teams this time of year, look great on paper. They were active in free agency, something they weren’t known for under former general manager Kevin Colbert. Pittsburgh addressed its inconsistent offensive line and inside linebackers group with the addition of guards Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, tackle Broderick Jones (drafted), and Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. They also made up for the loss of Cam Sutton and Terrell Edmunds with veterans Patrick Peterson and Keanu Neal and drafted rookies Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. If they can put it all together, they could look like a brand new team.

With those significant moves and a stellar rookie class (based on projections), there are high hopes that the Steelers can once again become contenders, not only within the tough AFC North but in the postseason.

Predicting Steelers 2023 Win-Loss Record

Now that the 2023 schedule is out, the annual game of predicting wins and losses has begun in the media and within the fan base. Steelers insider Mark Kaboly recently published his prediction for The Athletic and the result was surprising: an 8-9 record for Mike Tomlin, the first of his career in Pittsburgh.

“Steelers fans would view an 8-9 record as a step back, especially after an impressive offseason,” he wrote.

Kaboly foresees a losing record but believes they’ll be better as a whole than their 9-8 finish in January 2023. “And wouldn’t it be ironic that the year the Steelers improved their team on paper would be the year they finished below .500? They haven’t done that since 2003. Now, the Steelers could be a better team than they were last year and not have a better record. That’s what I am expecting. Pickett and the offense will be much better, and the defense should be as dominant as ever, but dealing with expectations is a different level, and that’s the toughest thing that will face them this year.”

But Pittsburgh won’t be the worst in its division, according to Kaboly. That distinction belongs to the Cleveland Browns at 6-11. It’s pretty easy who he views as Kings of the AFC North.

“The Bengals are head-and-shoulders above everybody else in the division, with the Browns pretty much saddled as the worst team,” Kaboly wrote.

The Steelers’ and Ravens’ divisional placement could come down to the wire, with Baltimore barely winning the race at 9-8, good for second place. Kaboly’s forecast shows Pittsburgh’s final three weeks will be their undoing: Cincinnati Bengals at home, Seattle Seahawks out west and, of course, the Ravens in Baltimore.

“The Ravens and Steelers will fight it out for the second spot, and I just can’t get over the end-of-the-season gauntlet the Steelers have to go through. It’s just not a good mix for them, and ultimately that Bengals-Seahawks-Ravens stretch will be their undoing.”

Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Strength of Schedule

Pittsburgh’s strength of schedule based on the combined 2022 record of all 17 opponents (134-151-2) ranks 8th easiest. Many find this route to be hogwash; after all, some teams are drastically different from season to season.

An alternative is based on Vegas oddsmakers’ projected win totals. This model assigns the Steelers the 11th hardest schedule. Sharp Football Analysis’ Warren Sharp’s SOS study proves more accurate than combined record. He used 2022 as an example.

  • of the 7 teams that actually had the easiest 2022 schedules, 6 went to the playoffs (Eagles, 49ers, Jaguars, Cowboys, Chargers, Chiefs)
  • of the 7 teams that actually had the hardest 2022 schedules, 2 went to the playoffs (Dolphins, Bengals)
  • of the 11 teams that actually had the hardest 2022 schedules, only 3 went over their win total (Bengals, Steelers, Jets)

Until we can see which model proves to be the most accurate for 2023, there are four months of offseason workouts and preseason games to get through.