Today we continue our NFL divisional breakdowns with a look at the AFC North. Our first look will be at the division winning Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers #1 priority is to sign their franchise QB to a long term contract. Unfortunately that means their won't be much cash left to sign their pro bowl left guard Alan Faneca. Even though Willie Parker lead the league in rushing until he broke his leg near the end of the season, the O-line was suspect at best; getting their QB killed in the pocket on a regular basis. Losing Faneca could be a major blow to an already weak offensive line. The Steelers must some how keep Faneca for another year (franchise tag him) and add depth in order to keep their backs (Parker and Rothelisberger) healthy. The Steelers also need to add some depth on the defensive line and linebacker positions. A lack of depth at these positions killed any chance of Pittsburgh going far in the playoffs once Aaron Smith (their pro bowl defensive end) went down with a torn bicep. It will be interesting to see how Tomlin handles personnel changes on defense with the philosophies of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (a 3-4 guy) and Tomlin (a 4-3, cover 2 guy) being so different.
The first thing the Browns need to do is sign their QB! No one knows how good Quinn can be but you know what you got in Anderson; and he is only going to get better. After that, the Browns just need to sure up that run defense (D-lineman and linebackers) and stay healthy. They also need to get younger at running back. Although J. Lewis had a good year I think his better days are over. A year of maturity should have the Browns competing for the division and a wildcard spot at the least.
The Ravens need a coach first...... then they need to address the QB situation. McNair is done and Boller is terrible. Not sure why they resigned him. Boller is probably just keeping the seat warm for the air apparent Troy Smith. The defense is still solid, but getting old. Upgrades are needed there also. The Ravens desperately need play makers on offense. Until all these issues are addressed....the fans in the D.C.- Baltimore area should root for the Redskins!
Any finally....the Bungals! Upgrades on defense are their most apparent need. The D ranked in the bottom of the league in almost every category; but most important for this squad to address is veteran leadership and a "no tolerance" approach to silly off the field activities and run in's with the law. Their offense is still great, but could use a little more consistency in the running game. If this team can grow up, stay out of trouble and play just mediocre defense, they should be back in the playoffs next year.
Games to watch tonight:
NJ @ Golden State TNT 10:30 EST