This is a tale of two halves. The Steelers and Ravens represent the “have’s” while the Browns and Bengals represent the “have not’s”. To be more specific, the Steelers are one of the best run organizations in all of sports. They continuously turn over their roster and it seems that there is always talent obtained with a majority of their draft picks. The Ravens might be the class of the AFC if it weren’t for the Steelers and maybe if Joe Flacco could be a tad more clutch when it counted.
The bottom of the division is two different stories also. There is reason for optimism in Cleveland because of the play of Colt McCoy while the Bengals are a disgruntled group of malcontents in complete disarray. Are any of you surprised at that?
Pittsburgh Steelers 14-2
The Steelers have just about everything going for them and came within a touchdown of another Super Bowl victory. They have a young, dynamic coach in Mike Tomlin and also a big time and underrated QB in Big Ben. Big Ben didn’t have his best game v. the Pack but he is a clutch performer and a winner. Hopefully he can finally put his off the field issues behind him.
These are repeats but:
Top-run organization. They draft well, know when to get rid of players and are constantly a playoff contender.
Great offense, with big time play makers and a stud QB.
Aggressive, nasty defense.
Offensive line, particularly tackle. Flo did a good job filling in, but his best days are behind him.
Cornerback. Ike Taylor is a good player but is a free agent and there is no guarantee that he’ll be back.
Defensive line. Still solid, but starting to get a little long in the tooth.
Needs: There is no reason to believe the Steelers won’t be contending for another title next season. Well, Rex Ryan did predict another Jet Super bowl and I’m sure the Vegas odds makers have taken that to the bank.
Baltimore Ravens 14-2
Like I said above, if it weren’t for the Steelers the Ravens might have another Lombardi Trophy on the shelf. A lot of the Ravens big time offensive players failed to give big time performances against the Steelers. In order for the Ravens to take that next step they need Flacco to become a clutch, championship player. If he does that the other players games will be elevated as well.
Despite his lack of playoff victories, Flacco is a young, franchise quarterback.
Solid veteran defense with Lewis, Reed and Suggs.
Good skill position players in Rice and Boldin.
Aside from Suggs there is no pass rush.
Age at key positions.
Flacco’s inability in the clutch.
Needs: Funny thing about the Ravens is that a lot of their strengths can also be seen as weaknesses. Ray Lewis can’t play forever. Terrell Suggs and Reed are also great players but their rookie seasons were quite a few years ago also. The Ravens have a chance to win with this group but will only go as far as Flacco takes them. If Flacco fails to deliver in the next couple years the Ravens will be forced to rebuild around him or find a new QB.
Cleveland Browns 5-11
Another seasons and more change in Cleveland. Gone is the Man-Genius and in his place is Pat Shurmur who’ll be going back to a 4-3 defense which will undoubtedly lead to roster turnover. There are rumblings the Browns will take a QB at #6 because they feel Colt McCoy can’t hold up an entire season. Don’t believe the pre-draft hype. McCoy is a winner and yes he needs to improve his frame but the Browns hopefully wont make the mistakes that other teams make when a new regime comes in by abandoning him because he wasn’t “their guy”.
Colt McCoy. Yes, I am a fan.
Peyton Hillis. Thank you Denver.
#6 pick in the draft should get them an immediate impact player.
Defensive line, particularly a pass rusher. And the switch to the 4-3 plays more emphasis on this position.
Wide receiver. They have some young complimentary pieces, but no stud.
Secondary. Almost anywhere.
Offensive line. The right side is a major problem.
Needs: I am in the Cleveland glass if half full camp. If McCoy is not the answer then the Browns will be picking in a similar position next year. I am not as big a Gabbert or Newton fan as many and if I were picking for the Browns I wouldn’t look at QB until late, if at all. The Browns should be able to get a stud pass rusher or top wideout when they pick.
Cincinnati Bengals 4-12
What a mess! Two seasons ago the Bengals were 10-6 and won the division. Last year they imploded. You can’t even blame TO for that one. Can the Bengals add more malcontents? TO, Pac Man, Roy Williams, this kind of mix never works. I am not sure if Carson Palmer is done or not and in this atmosphere it’s impossible to tell. Maybe the best thing for the Bengals to do is trade Palmer and everyone else with any value and start from scratch.
Solid defense, particularly the cornerbacks and defensive line.
Cedric Benson but he’s not getting any younger.
The #4 pick in the draft, but if they draft a QB this could be a future weakness.
The organization from ownership through the head coach.
Offensive line, especially at guard.