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NFL Analyst Pegs Bengals' AFC North Rival as 'Darkhorse' Super Bowl Contender

This wouldn't be ideal for Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to move up in the standings after finishing last in the AFC North in each of the past three seasons. 

Some believe they could leapfrog the Steelers, who won the division in 2020, despite struggling down the stretch last season. 

Former NFL wide receiver and scout Bucky Brooks isn't one of those people. In fact, he believes Pittsburgh is a "darkhorse Super Bowl contender."

"My darkhorse in the AFC would be the Pittsburgh Steelers," Brooks said on the Move the Sticks podcast. "I feel like people have just kinda poured dirt on the Steelers, despite the fact that their defense is legit. I know that Ben Roethlisberger is older and I know that they faded down the stretch last year, I think people have to realize they were still a 12-4 team a year ago. And Najee Harris is a dramatic and significant upgrade at running back from what they had last year.

"Anytime you're the Pittsburgh Steelers and you play the kinda defense that they play, they should always be in the conversation because that defense will get them to 10 or 11 wins. Ben Roethlisberger's guile and winning ways could get them to 12 or 13 and if you put that team in the tournament and if Najee Harris emerges as a big time player, put money on the Pittsburgh Steelers being one of those teams that we talk about in the final four."

Burying the Steelers is dangerous, especially since Mike Tomlin has never had a losing record since taking over as head coach in 2007. They have an elite defense and solid weapons. If their offensive line is competent and Roethlisberger plays like a top-15 quarterback, then there's no reason why they shouldn't be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season. 

Listen to Brooks' full comments on the podcast below. 

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