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Two AFC Teams That Will SHOCK The NFL in 2024

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As roster’s begin to take a large step towards final shape before the summer starts, the NFL offseason has entered one of the quieter times of the entire year. We are now past the beloved schedule release, free agency is over, and the most entertaining thing we have as fans is rookies taking their first practice reps with teams. Many squads have made significant progress so far on paper, with some obviously doing more than others. There are two AFC teams in specific that have made changes for the better. In recent memory, they may have been lackluster in some aspects, but it’s written that there’s better days ahead. Some may come as a surprise, but I guarantee that the development of these squads will be shown. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key Additions: Russell Wilson (QB), Justin Fields (QB), Patrick Queen (LB), Cordarelle Patterson (RB/KR), DeShon Elliot (S), Troy Fautanu (OL), Zach Frazier (C), Roman Wilson (WR) 

 

Putting it bluntly, the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers were an interesting team. They finished third in the AFC North at 10-7, which is a rather impressive record for a team that was 3 GB of a division title, making the Wild Card as the 7th and final team. Yet, the Steelers were one of the worst total offenses in the NFL, with the combination of Kenny Pickett and Matt Canada (for a majority of the year at least) treating fans to unwatchable football. A lot of change was needed for the sake of this franchise’s ability to compete, and Omar Khan and the rest of the front office have not disappointed by those standards. 

 

Moving on from Kenny Pickett and bringing in both Russell Wilson for this season and Justin Fields for the future were two fantastic moves. As a Bears fan, Justin Fields still has a world of potential that Chicago couldn’t unlock, and a well-coached team like the Steelers should do his career wonders. Despite all the hate, Russell Wilson will be a wonderful mentor to Fields, especially on his insanely cheap contract (thanks to the Broncos), allowing him to continue to improve without the pressure of being thrown into new situation right away. 

 

Both sides of the ball were treated well this offseason in Pittsburgh. On the offensive side of the ball, free agency and the draft saw the team add the previously discussed QB duo of Russell Wilson/Justin Fields, Cordarrelle Patterson, Roman Wilson, Troy Fautanu, and Zach Frazier to a unit that already featured Najee Harris and George Pickens. Meanwhile, a star-studded defense that includes name such as Joey Porter, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and T.J. Watt will be joined by All-Pro LB Patrick Queen, coming from team rival Baltimore. In general, this team has gotten a lot better in every way. Arthur Smith, who has hired as new OC, may be a controversial candidate, but his success in Tennesse shows his potential as an offensive mind. 

 

A lot of people are counting them out because of how competitive the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns usually are, but there’s no reason the new and improved Steelers can’t make some noise. Expect them to once again be in contention for a playoff spot, but this time be a threat with a functioning offense. 

Tennessee Titans 

Key Additions: Calvin Ridley (WR), Tony Pollard (RB), Lloyd Cushenberry (C), Chidobe Awuzie (CB), JC Latham (OL), T’Vondre Sweat (DL), Tyler Boyd (WR) 

 

Being in the same division as a mind-blowing Houston Texans team, Anthony Richardson led Indianapolis Colts, and a rising Jacksonville Jaguars squad is definitely not easy, but the Tennesse Titans are well equipped to surpass expectations in 2024. Finishing in last place by a definitive 3 games, the Titans 2023 season was one to forget about and move on. Thankfully for Titans fans, their 2nd year QB Will Levis has been put in a position for a great year. 

 

Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Boyd, Tony Pollard, and Tyjae Spears are all wonderful safety blankets for a developing QB like Levis to show off his skills with. JC Latham and Lloyd Cushenberry are going to do a fantastic job protecting the pocket and enhancing the run game for Tennessee as well. Even though firing Mike Vrabel wasn’t a popular decision by any means, Brian Callahan is a wonderful replacement. His work with the Cincinnati Bengals, helping Zac Taylor turn the offense into one of the best the league has to offer, was very praiseworthy and under looked in all honesty. Losing Derrick Henry was a stab to the heart as well, but we’ve seen Cincinnati’s ability to put any RB under center in the best possible position, meaning both Tyjae Spears and Tony Pollard are in a spot to shine come September. 

 

I understand that there is a lot to be worried about with the Titans. Levis is going to have to learn a new offense this offseason and rebuild a base that showed promise last year under another coaching regime. The most important thing that triumphs that worry is that they are puting him in a position to succeed. They went after some of the best free agents the market had to offer this year, spent their top draft pick on a tackle that looks to have cornerstone level promise, and improved from an overall talent perspective. The AFC seems to get better every year and it’s easy to look past teams like the Titans aren’t title contending threats at first glance. While the Texans have this division on lock, do not be shocked if the Titans make a run at a Wild Card spot this year. 

 

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