clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

POLL: Which AFC North team is best positioned to dethrone the Steelers?

New, comments
NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North division for the second straight season, and third time in four years, with a 13-3 record in 2017. With a home game against the Blake Bortles led Jaguars on Sunday, they have a prime opportunity to advance to the AFC Championship game for the second straight season. Pittsburgh will likely enter the offseason as the heavy favorites to wear the division’s crown again next season.

The Steelers have a trio of explosive receivers, their first string offensive line and entire starting defense under contract for next season. However, they could lose star tailback Le’Veon Bell to free agency, and an unfortunate injury has left Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier’s future in doubt. Furthermore, Pittsburgh will likely have to purge a few contracts from their payroll in order to sign their next draft class, and stalwart quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has given indications he is nearing the end of his playing career.

Which AFC North team is best positioned to dethrone the Steelers?

Baltimore Ravens

Finished in second place with a 9-7 record, but the four game gap between Baltimore and Pittsburgh show the Ravens have considerable ground to make up. Despite failing to win the division for five consecutive seasons, head coach John Harbaugh desires continuity from his coaching schemes. Continuity may not be possible on the roster.

Four offensive starters - Mike Wallace, Ben Watson, Ryan Jensen and James Hurst - are impending unrestricted free agents. As usual, the Ravens are tight against the salary cap, meaning they are unlikely to be able to make a splash in free agency without releasing multiple veterans from their contracts.

The draft will be the main avenue for bolstering the roster. Baltimore is expected to have four picks in the top-100, including the 16th pick in each round and a compensatory selection. Unfortunately, their cap management may force the Ravens to choose between multiple needy positions instead of truly upgrading their personnel.

Cincinnati Bengals

Ended the season with a 7-9 record, yet elected to bring back Marvin Lewis for his 16th season as head coach. Cincinnati has several bluechip players, including receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and corner William Jackson. Their rookie class also impressed, as tailback Joe Mixon and defensive ends Carl Lawson made positive impacts.

The Bengals enter the offseason with approximately $30 million in salary cap space, but are notoriously stingy and unwilling to spend to the cap. Notable impending free agents include starting center Russell Bodine and tight end Tyler Eifert. Cincinnati holds the 12th pick in the NFL draft and are likely to address their offensive line.

Cleveland Browns

Completed a winless season, yet will retain Hue Jackson despite his 1-31 record as head coach. The Browns have a few core players to build around, specifically on their talented defensive front that features Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton and Emmanuel Ogbah. They also possess a pair of top notch offensive guards, as well as Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and David Njoku as offensive playmakers.

Cleveland is in dire need of a stabilizing quarterback, and may devote some of their $100+ million in cap space to acquiring a steady veteran. Running back Isaiah Crowell is their only notable free agent. The Browns have an abundance of draft assets, with two picks in the top four overall as well as three second round selections. With a strong offseason, Cleveland has an opportunity to field one of the most talented rosters in the division next season.

Poll

Which AFC North team is best positioned to dethrone the Steelers?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Ravens
    (515 votes)
  • 19%
    Bengals
    (152 votes)
  • 15%
    Browns
    (123 votes)
790 votes total Vote Now