Odds don't favor Steelers turnaround

The oddsmakers at Bovada don’t like the Pittsburgh Steelers' chances of making significant improvement in 2014.

The online sports book set the Steelers’ over/under win total for 2014 at 8.5 following consecutive 8-8 seasons.

First: Breathe, people. Second, we are still more than three months away from the start of the regular season, so these odds are nothing more than something to talk about and debate.

Since the Steelers are undefeated right now, I will stick with my optimistic projection of 10 wins in 2014.

Bet on this at your own risk, but there are plenty of reasons to think the Steelers will go over 8.5 wins. Among them:

  • You always have a chance in the NFL if you have a quarterback, and Ben Roethlisberger is still in the prime of his career and playing at a high level. He will operate behind his best offensive line since early in his career. And it’s hard not to like the skill players Roethlisberger has around him if wide receiver Markus Wheaton makes the jump the Steelers expect this season.

  • The defense will be better in 2014. The Steelers added speed with the additions of free safety Mike Mitchell and linebacker Ryan Shazier. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will emerge as an impact player in his second season, and Steve McLendon will assert himself at nose tackle with a year of starting there under his belt.

  • The Steelers, who haven’t traveled long distances well under coach Mike Tomlin, don’t play west of the Mississippi River this season, and they only play one game outside of their time zone. The schedule sets up nicely for them.

Too optimistic? Perhaps, and here is what could go wrong:

  • The offensive line never seems to stay healthy, and while Mike Munchak might be the best offensive line coach in the NFL, wholesale injuries would make his job significantly harder. The Steelers do appear to be better equipped to deal with injuries up front given their depth, but it would be nice if they can develop continuity by staying relatively healthy.

  • The defense could depend on too many young players. Shazier looks great playing inside linebacker in shorts -- OTAs are one thing, training camp quite another. Also, defensive end Stephon Tuitt will probably have to play significant snaps, and the nuances of his position are not easy for a young player to learn.

Here is how the Steelers compare with their division rivals, according to Bovada:

Over/under win totals

Bengals: 9

Steelers: 8.5

Ravens: 8.5

Browns: 6.5

Odds to win the AFC North

Bengals: 2-1

Steelers: 2-1

Ravens: 5-2

Browns: 5-1