Gil Brandt feels that the Baltimore Ravens represent the clearest and biggest threat to the Pittsburgh Steelers' hold on the AFC North this season. After a 2014 NFL season that saw the Steelers offense hit new highs, and the Steelers organization take the AFC North crown with an 11-5 record.
Coming as number 2 on Brandt's list, he goes on to say that Ben Roethlisberger is unlikely to hit the same numbers he had last season that saw him as one of the league's top quarterbacks. He goes on to say that "When you succeed like that, opponents tend to adjust, game-planning different tactics to stop you." Which is precisely what the Ravens were able to do to the Steelers in the playoffs. Even though the Steelers did not have running back Le'Veon Bell, the Ravens beat up the Steelers on both sides of the ball heading to a 30-17 victory at Heinz Field.
While the article does not talk heavily about the Ravens, it should note that Baltimore is healthy to start the season and will be getting back a secondary that is one of the league's best when not on injured reserve. Add to that another year for the offensive line to gel together and added weapons for the offense and Baltimore should be able to fly higher than they did in 2014. As the Steelers are still trying to find their identity on defense, if their offense falters even slightly over last year's benchmark, the Steelers will immediately face competition from not only the Baltimore Ravens, but the Cincinnati Bengals as well, who are looking to shed their post season failures.
Finally, the Steelers face a daunting challenge in the very tough AFC North, as they're just one of three teams -- including the Ravens and Bengals -- who could conceivably win the division. At the end of the day, I like the Ravens' chances the best.