The AFC North has seen quite a shakeup this offseason. So
this begs the question, how fortified are the Steelers going to be in 2019?
More importantly, how do they stack up against the rest of the division?
If the betting odds at the best
online sportsbooks are indicative of the questions we
just posed, then the Pittsburgh Steelers are not in bad shape at all.
Leading the Pack
For the first time in who knows how long, the Cleveland
Browns are the odds-on favorites to win the AFC North. They are listed at +133
with the Steelers just behind at +176. The Baltimore Ravens are +325, and the lowly
Bengals are way, way back at +1850.
The public is loving the Browns right now. They are the
underdog story … it’s like rags to riches, and just about everyone loves that
type of storyline. They’ve got a serious threat and No.1 receiver in Odell
Beckham Jr. They made the questionable move of picking up Kareem Hunt. Plus
they have Duke Johnson and Jarvis Landry … They have a lot of talent at the
skill positions. So it’s understandable that the fans and media are going
ape-shit over the Browns. That said, they didn’t really do anything to bolster
the trenches … and if you know football, you know that is where the game is
The Steelers lost some talent, but in a lot of ways, it’s better. There is no longer any uncertainty surrounding Le‘Veon and team dynamics. Antonio Brown isn’t around anymore to throw sideline hissy fits.
Despite the ‘official’ loss of high-profile superstars, the
Steelers are the actually the team in the AFC North bringing back the most core
stability. They have the most depth up front, where it counts, and are still
deep with reliable skill players. But how do they stack up against the Ravens?
Baltimore is going to win games. They are going to be
extremely tough on defense again in 2019. That said, the rest of the AFC has
had a full offseason to study their one-dimensional, Lamar-Jackson-led offense.
Unfortunately, for the Ravens, because of this, if there is any young star QB
likely to see a hefty regression into a sophomore slump, it’s Jackson. Their
toughness up front and clock control will still make them a tough team to beat,
but we should expect to see them get stopped more while on offense.
The Bengals are a mess. If they win five games under Zac
Taylor, they should thank their lucky stars. Honestly, they are the only
nonfactor in the AFC North – at least for the 2019 campaign. Zac Taylor may
breathe some fresh air into this franchise, but they are in a definitive state
of transition at the moment.
Why the Steelers Will
Win the North
The defense was already quite good at putting pressure on
opposing QBs. Now they’ve added Mark
Barron and Devin Bush to bolster the defense even more.
Offensively, they snagged Donte Moncrief, and they still have Smith-Schuster
and Conner so it shouldn’t be too hard to find open targets and redistribute
those touchdowns that previously went Brown’s way. Look for James Washing to make a splash in
his sophomore year as well.
It all comes down to unity. The Steelers have the most
stable core of players and will be playing with a chip on their shoulders after
just barely missing the playoffs last season.