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fordfixer
05-12-2009, 12:17 AM
2009 AFC North: Still Trying to Catch The Steelers

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1727 ... e-steelers (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/172764-2009-afc-north-still-trying-to-catch-the-steelers)

by Lee Heisler

The AFC North provided both teams that played in the 2008 AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl Champions, yet the division appears to be getting stronger.



Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have been the team to beat in this division since the NFL aligned the teams in this current format and this year appears to be no different.

The Steelers suffered few losses in the offseason and continued to reload in typical Steeler fashion, through the draft.

They addressed their aging defensive line by adding Evander "Ziggy" Hood in the first round and Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris in the sixth round.

The drafting of Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett along with the signing of Keiwan Ratliff adds significant depth and playmaking ability to the secondary.

The signing of Shaun McDonald gives the team another sure-handed veteran, while third-round draft pick Mike Wallace gives an explosive playmaker at both wide receiver and kick returner. Also, Limas Sweed is expected to step up from what the Steelers' consider a "red-shirt" season.

Youth was added to the O-line in the forms of third-round pick Kraig Urbik and seventh round-selection A.Q. Shipley.


Urbik, a mauler at guard, is expected to challenge for the starting right guard spot from day one.

Shipley, a former first-team All-Big 10 performer, reminds many in Pittsburgh of another undersized center, Mike Webster.

The Steelers also added a "Tank" at running back. Frank "The Tank" Summers is expected to make an impact as a short-yardage runner, fullback, and on special teams. In addition to "The Tank", the Steelers hope Rashard Mendenhall can live up to the promise that the Steelers' saw when they took him in the first round last year.

The Steelers and their mix of superstars (Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison), solid veterans (James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Willie Parker), and up-and-comers (Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons) should remain on top of the AFC North.



Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore was one of the best teams in the AFC last season, if not the NFL. But it just so happens that they are in the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that they could not find a way to beat in three meetings.

The Ravens lost some key pieces in the offseason, but did a solid job of finding replacements.

In free agency the Ravens added center Matt Birk. While Birk isn't what he once was, he will be a solid addition to a young line.

After letting veteran cornerback Chris McAllister go, the Ravens signed corners Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr along with re-signing Samari Rolle.

The Ravens looked to give promising quarterback Joe Flacco another weapon and did so by adding tight end L.J. Smith. He and Todd Heap should be a nice combo, if Heap can stay healthy.

In the draft, the Ravens traded up and got one of the best talents in the draft. Offensive tackle Michael Oher could have been a top-10 pick. The Ravens expect him to anchor their line for the next decade.

With their next three picks, the Ravens added some talent to an already stout defense.

Defensive end/linebacker Paul Kruger is a hard-nosed, versatile player that will get after the QB.
LaDarius Webb is a CB from a small school, but flashes a tremendous amount of talent.

Jason Phillips is another athletic LB that the Ravens expect to plug into their defense and reap the rewards of.

With their last two selections the Ravens added to two of their offense's deepest positions, TE and RB.

Davon Drew is a raw TE prospect with some talent. He'll sit behind a few veteran TEs and learn.

Cedric Peerman is a talented RB from the University of Virginia. With LaRon McClain likely seeing more time at FB in place of Lorenzo Neal, Peerman could battle for some carries with McGahee and Rice.

Baltimore will have a vicious defense and a powerful running game, but how far they can go will depend on the development of QB Joe Flacco and the passing game. To this point, I don't believe that the Ravens have given Flacco enough weapons to overtake the Steelers.



Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals suffered through another disaster of a season, especially after the loss of franchise QB Carson Palmer. But after a stellar draft and a few free-agent signings, the Bengals have a look of a contender.

The Bengals have been busy this offseason. They've lost players such as wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, left tackle Levi Jones, and tackle Stacey Andrews.

Yet, they've added alot more, both though free agency and the draft.

The Bengals free-agent additions include wide receiver Laveranues Coles, defensive tackle Tank Johnson, and safety Roy Williams.

It's through the draft, however, where the Bengals believe they've struck it rich.

First-round pick Andre Smith once was thought to be the top overall tackle, if not the top overall pick. Maturity and desire still are the main issues with Smith.

Rey Maualuga was expecting to be a first-round pick, but questions about his ability to be more than a two-down LB and his maturity caused him to slip into the second.

In the third round the Bengals chose defensive end Michael Johnson. Scouts were wowed by his athletic ability, but questioned his consistency and motivation.

With their next two picks the Bengals chose TE Chase Coffman and center Jonathan Luigs. Both were very productive in college and solid citizens, but the questions were about their ability. Can Coffman block and can Luigs avoid being over powered.

With the rest of their picks the Bengals added depth.

CB Morgan Trent from Michigan, RB Bernard Scott from Abilene Christian, FB Fui Vakapuna from BYU, DL Clinton McDonald from Memphis, and WR Freddie Brown from Utah.

The Bengals continue to possess plenty of talent (Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Keith Rivers, Leon Hall, Rey Maualuga, Andre Smith), but can they come together as a team?

Besides Carson Palmer, they all have their issues. The return of Palmer gives the Bengals a leader and an elite QB. Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him Ocho Cinco) has quieted down his "trade me" talk, but does his talent still overcome his attitude?

And can all of these troubled but talented players come together? Can Marvin Lewis get them to come together?

If they do, the AFC North and the NFL will have to take notice.If they don't, it could be another disaster in the 'Nati.

My guess is that it'll be somewhere in between, good enough for third in the AFC North.



Cleveland Browns

Just two years ago the Browns went 10-6. At this time last year they were the NFL darlings. TV, radio, and the internet were full of claims that this was the Browns' year.

Poor coaching, injuries, attitude, and horrible play sent the Browns to the basement of the AFC North at 4-12.

Now they are rebuilding again. A new coach, new GM, and new players.

The Browns traded TE Kellen Winslow, likely lost WR Dante Stallworth to legal issues, and have been dealing with the Braylon Edwards trade talks. Heck, there were talks that the Browns may deal for ANOTHER QB, Jay Cutler.

The Browns also lost two of their better players from a horrible defense.

Safety Sean Jones to the Eagles and LB Andra Davis to the Broncos.

As for the draft, Cleveland had the No. 5 overall selection. Fans were dreaming about Aaron Curry, Michael Crabtree, or B.J. Raji. Fans, guess again! The Browns traded down, and then again, and again.

With their first-round selection, the Browns took center Alex Mack. Mack should start from day one and give the Browns a very formidable O-line.

In the second round, the Browns selected WRs Brian Robiske and Mohammed Massaquoi along with OLB David Veikune.

While Robiske is the anti-Edwards. He's happy to be a Brown and he has good hands. Massaquoi reminds me of Edwards in one wayŚthe drops problem.

Veikune also reminds me of someoneŚMike Mamula. He wowed people with his ability, but his production doesn't add up. He had a total of 16 sacks in the past two seasons at Hawaii.

If he was such a pass rusher shouldn't he have had more against the level of talent Hawaii played?

In the fourth round, the Browns selected USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava. He should contribute right away on special teams and possibly develop into a solid LB.

With their three picks in the sixth round, the Browns took two small school CBs with tons of upside in Don Carey and Coye Francies and a productive RB in James Davis.

In free agency the Browns added LB Eric Barton, WR David Patten, WR Mike Furrey, CB Corey Ivy, CB Hank Poteat, TE Robert Royal, LB Bo Ruud, LB David Bowens, DT C.J. Mosley, OL John St. Clair, & OL Floyd Womack.

They also added DE Kenyon Coleman, S Abram Elam, and QB Brett Ratliff in the draft day trade from the Jets.

They are collecting players that have played before under Mangini that are nothing but role players. I understand that they will at least understand his system, but they still are probably the least talented team in the division.

Also, they need to trade either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson. Settle on ONE QB! By going back and forth, both are getting ruined just like Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. QB is a position where stability is needed, they are supposed to be the leader of the team.

The O-line should be very strong. LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Alex Mack, RG Floyd Womack, and RT John St. Clair. Actually the left side should be dominate.

They've signed several average WRs. I guess Mangini is going to the Patriots theory when they had Branch, Givens, etc.... But there is one thing that they don't have... Tom Brady!

The Browns still have no playmakers on the defensive side of the ball besides Shaun Rogers. D'Quell Jackson is ok. They have two young CBs that could develop, then they drafted two more CBs with upside. So they could potentially be ok there.

Unfortunately for my wife, who is a Browns fan, I believe that the Browns will once again be in the basement of the AFC North. But to end on a good note, they should score more than they did last season.

RuthlessBurgher
05-12-2009, 12:29 PM
I didn't realize the Browns signed Furrey. It appears to have happened last week:


Browns sign ex-Lion receiver Mike Furrey
by Mary Kay Cabot
Plain Dealer Reporter
Tuesday May 05, 2009, 6:33 PM
UPDATED: 7:59 p.m.

Mike Furrey signed with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday. The former Detroit Lions wide receiver had 98 receptions in 2006.CLEVELAND -- With the uncertainty surrounding veteran receivers Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth, the Browns continue to add depth to the position.

On Tuesday, they signed six-year pro Mike Furrey, who spent the past three seasons with the Lions and his first three with the Rams.

Furrey's signing comes on the heels of the Browns drafting Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaqoui in the second round of the draft and adding David Patten, Devale Ellis and rookie Jordan Norwood of Penn State as free agents.

Stallworth will be arraigned May 21st on DUI manslaughter charges and Edwards, the subject of trade rumors, has been mostly absent from the team's off-season conditioning program.

A native of Grove City, Furrey (6-0, 195) began his college career as a walk-on at Ohio State before transferring to Northern Iowa. The Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2000, but he spent the next three seasons playing in the XFL and Arena League before signing with the Rams in 2003.

In his six NFL seasons, he's started 37 of the 78 games he's played, totaling 198 catches for 2,128 yards and seven touchdowns. He's also fielded 23 punts for a 9.3-yard average and 20 kickoffs for an 18.8-yard average.

His most productive year was his first with the Lions in 2006 when he led the NFC and was second in the NFL with 98 catches for 1,086 yards and six TDs.

Furrey also has the versatility that Browns coach Eric Mangini likes. In 2005, his last season with the Rams, he started 11 of his 16 games at safety, making 55 tackles and four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Furrey was cut by the Lions Jan. 29 after spending the last seven games of their winless 2008 season on injured reserve with a concussion. Furrey publicly disagreed with the decision to go on injured reserve, telling the Detroit Free Press he was fine. He also said he had to find Lions GM Martin Mayhew in the cafeteria to find out he had been placed on IR.

Asked if that's why he got cut, Furrey told the paper, "I don't know. That's a man to a man, you know. We were all disgruntled. We all wanted to win. We all felt it could be different. Some guys expressed change and getting things on the right track because we all wanted to win, and it was kind of like we got pushed aside."

Oviedo
05-12-2009, 12:51 PM
Early prediction for 2009:

Steelers 11-5
Ravens 9-7. Flacco will show more Derek Anderson like year 2 performances and defense shows it's age.
Bumgals 8-8. Actually added talent but no way enough.
Stains 6-10. Full blown QB controversy by mid season.

Bottomline is the Steelers win the AFC North by 2 games.

proudpittsburgher
05-12-2009, 12:56 PM
Early prediction for 2009:
Stains 6-10. Full blown QB controversy by mid season.



Does it appear to anyone else that the Browns don't seem to want either quarterback right now?

RuthlessBurgher
05-12-2009, 01:26 PM
Early prediction for 2009:
Stains 6-10. Full blown QB controversy by mid season.



Does it appear to anyone else that the Browns don't seem to want either quarterback right now?

Mangini made sure that QB Brett Ratliff was included in the trade down with the Jets. He might actually prefer Ratliff to both Anderson and Quinn. It is all quite comical to us Steeler fans, eh?

:brownssuck

Oviedo
05-12-2009, 01:36 PM
Early prediction for 2009:
Stains 6-10. Full blown QB controversy by mid season.



Does it appear to anyone else that the Browns don't seem to want either quarterback right now?

Mangini made sure that QB Brett Ratliff was included in the trade down with the Jets. He might actually prefer Ratliff to both Anderson and Quinn. It is all quite comical to us Steeler fans, eh?

:brownssuck

Wouldn't surprise me if Ratliff is "the guy." He know Mangini's offense and early indications were that Mangini was not a Brady fan and liked Anderson's stronger arm.

The Stains continue to be a joke and the Bumgals may actually get their act together before the Stains.

:brownssuck :brownssuck

Chachi
05-13-2009, 08:00 AM
The Steelers and their mix of superstars (Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison), solid veterans (James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Willie Parker), and up-and-comers (Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons) should remain on top of the AFC North.

Might just be me, but I'd put Heath in the "Solid Veteran" category.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
05-13-2009, 09:45 AM
Early prediction for 2009:
Stains 6-10. Full blown QB controversy by mid season.



Does it appear to anyone else that the Browns don't seem to want either quarterback right now?

Mangini made sure that QB Brett Ratliff was included in the trade down with the Jets. He might actually prefer Ratliff to both Anderson and Quinn. It is all quite comical to us Steeler fans, eh?

:brownssuck

I remember this quote from back in the day when the Lions had three "starting" QBs - I think they had Peete, Ware, and maybe McMahon or Batch.......

"Show me a team with three starting QBs, and I will show you a team with no starting QBs."

Oviedo
05-13-2009, 09:48 AM
The Steelers and their mix of superstars (Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison), solid veterans (James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Willie Parker), and up-and-comers (Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons) should remain on top of the AFC North.

Might just be me, but I'd put Heath in the "Solid Veteran" category.

Completely agree. Miller is a solid veteran and probably one of the Top 5 TEs in the league even though he doesn't get the credit because he isn't catching 60+ per year.

I'd also add Ike Taylor to the solid veteran category. They guy gets no credit but shuts folks down.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
05-13-2009, 10:12 AM
The Steelers and their mix of superstars (Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison), solid veterans (James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Willie Parker), and up-and-comers (Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons) should remain on top of the AFC North.

Might just be me, but I'd put Heath in the "Solid Veteran" category.

Completely agree. Miller is a solid veteran and probably one of the Top 5 TEs in the league even though he doesn't get the credit because he isn't catching 60+ per year.

I'd also add Ike Taylor to the solid veteran category. They guy gets no credit but shuts folks down.

And while it may not be a popular choice after last year's camp, I put big Casey in the solid vet category as well.

Mister Pittsburgh
05-13-2009, 12:06 PM
Teams will finally realize that Baltimores entire offense is Flacco throwing deep to Mason and start picking him off at a crazy rate. Rats go 9-7 as some others have said.....maybe even 8-8.

One thing I love to see is that it seems the Patriots division is getting a little tougher with Rex Ryan now running the Jets and Parcels retooling the dolphins.

Oviedo
05-13-2009, 04:22 PM
Teams will finally realize that Baltimores entire offense is Flacco throwing deep to Mason and start picking him off at a crazy rate. Rats go 9-7 as some others have said.....maybe even 8-8.

One thing I love to see is that it seems the Patriots division is getting a little tougher with Rex Ryan now running the Jets and Parcels retooling the dolphins.

The Ratbirds and the Bumgals will fight it out for the table scraps and second place.

The Pats could face the first legitimate competition within their own division in the past several years. High probability they win the East but not the guaranteed cakewalk like the few years before last year.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
05-15-2009, 09:19 AM
One thing I love to see is that it seems the Patriots division is getting a little tougher with Rex Ryan now running the Jets and Parcels retooling the dolphins.

Add to that the fact that none of the East teams will have the pleasure of feasting on the AFC West and NFC West again this year. This year the whole league will be disappointed to see that the Pats are no better than an average team fighting to make the playoffs.

RuthlessBurgher
05-15-2009, 09:35 AM
[quote="Mister Pittsburgh":2i5b1rk1]One thing I love to see is that it seems the Patriots division is getting a little tougher with Rex Ryan now running the Jets and Parcels retooling the dolphins.

Add to that the fact that none of the East teams will have the pleasure of feasting on the AFC West and NFC West again this year. This year the whole league will be disappointed to see that the Pats are no better than an average team fighting to make the playoffs.[/quote:2i5b1rk1]

I know that I cry myself to sleep whenever New England fields a team that is merely average. :cry: :lol:

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
05-15-2009, 09:43 AM
"Still trying to catch the Steelers?"

Wasn't it just last year that we were trying to catch the off-season SB Champs Cleveland Browns???

:lol: :lol: