View Full Version : AFC North preview:

08-28-2008, 11:53 AM
Bengals: Circus in Cincy (http://www.nfl.com/kickoff/story?id=09000d5d80a43f69&template=with-video&confirm=true) | Browns: Bulked up D (http://www.nfl.com/kickoff/story?id=09000d5d80a43fd0&template=with-video&confirm=true) | Ravens: Transition year (http://www.nfl.com/kickoff/story?id=09000d5d80a44047&template=with-video&confirm=true) |



The Steelers faded at the end of the season, losing four of their last five including being knocked out of the playoffs on their home field. Now they face arguably the league's toughest schedule and an improving division opponent in Cleveland.

The combined winning percentage of the Steelers' opponents this year is .598, which is the toughest in the league. Considering that they only beat out the Browns for the AFC North title on a tie breaker after both finished

10-6, that doesn't bode well. What does, however, is an offense that finished 10th in the league in scoring and a defense that was statistically the best in the NFL, allowing only 266 yards per game.

That is not to say no problems exist. The offensive line is being retooled after the departure of All-Pro Alan Faneca at left guard. Center Sean Mahan (http://www.nfl.com/players/seanmahan/profile?id=MAH168381) shifts to that slot as a backup after the arrival of free agent Justin Hartwig (http://www.nfl.com/players/justinhartwig/profile?id=HAR756037). So at least 40 percent of the line will be new or in new positions on a unit that relies on continuity. The team is also trying to move away from its power running game to more of a quick passing, spread offense. That's a lot of changes.

Defensively there is a big problem at nose tackle. Casey Hampton (http://www.nfl.com/players/caseyhampton/profile?id=HAM671173) came to camp grossly out of shape, his weight having ballooned so much he could not finish the fitness run. He's fighting his way back into shape, but he is a key to their run defense and the overall effectiveness of their 3-4 scheme. If Hampton isn't playing at his normal high level, Chris Hoke (http://www.nfl.com/players/chrishoke/profile?id=HOK264111) will have to step in and be ready to do battle. The good news there is the Steelers are 12-0 when he's started at nose tackle for Hampton.

On the hot seat

Chris Kemoeutu is being asked to replace perennial Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, who may still be the best offensive lineman in football. All eyes will be on Kemoeutu because no one ever had to notice Faneca.

Why do they print garbage like this. Kemo is going to play LG,not replace Faneca


Outside linebacker James Harrison produced more turnovers last year than Sara Lee. In his first year as a starter, Harrison went to the Pro Bowl by leading the team with 8 sacks, registering 98 tackles and forcing an incredible seven fumbles.

They get something right. Hopefully they can add Woodley and Timmons to the list

Hard road to hoe

The Steelers lost three of their last four regular-season games and then were bounced out of the playoffs at home by Jacksonville. A fast start would be good to re-establish themselves. To do it, they have to be ready because between Sept. 14 and Oct. 5 they travel to Cleveland and Philadelphia, host the Ravens and then go back on the road for a trip to Jacksonville.

I don't see Cleveland and Phila as a problem,the Ravens on the other hand usually give us a good game.

Steelers will be better than you think if ...

Rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall shows he can handle the load in the red zone. Willie Parker rushed for 1,316 yards on 321 carries last year but he scored only two touchdowns. He eventually began being taken out when the Steelers were in the red zone because the coaches felt he wouldn't get the tough short yards. That's why they drafted the bruising Mendenhall No. 1.

Rashard was drafted because he was the best player available,not because of our goal line situation.

Steelers will be worse than you think if ...

Safety Troy Polamalu (http://www.nfl.com/players/troypolamalu/profile?id=POL041872) doesn't bounce back from last year's injury-plagued, disappointing season. He missed five games and parts of three others. He went without an interception for the first time in his career. The Steelers' secondary is nothing special if Polamalu's presence isn't felt.

Disagree, Troy is very good when healthy,but its the lack of a pass rush that makes our secondary look average.

NFL.COM (http://www.nfl.com/kickoff/story?id=09000d5d80a440b2&template=with-video&confirm=true)

08-28-2008, 12:31 PM
Please please tell me again how great the Browns defense is going to be. Tell me how all those FA's work out to make them God's gift to the AFC. Keep blasting in my ears how great a team that goes out and blows their load in free agency does every year. Unless you are Belicheck, and please don't compare Crennel too him again, then you can't just go out and buy a championship off of FA castoffs and low round draft picks that turn into gems.

08-29-2008, 01:54 AM
Everybody says that pre-season means nothing, but the strong correlation between undefeated pre-season teams being playoff contenders, and winless pre-season teams being playoff pretenders, is well-documented. The Browns are winless this pre-season. I know that so are the Patriots, and that the Colts always seem to fare poorly in the pre-season, but they're the exceptions to the general rule. Even we failed to make the playoffs after a winless pre-season in 2006.

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Something else I ought to add: Don't these people realize that our roster was decimated with injuries down the stretch last season? That might have something to do with us losing four of five. All that means is that we need more depth in some areas. When we're healthy, we're among the best teams in the league, and our 9-3 start ought to have been proof of that. We lost Ryan Clark, Aaron Smith and Willie Parker to serious injuries; Troy Polamalu and Marvel Smith played through injuries and were far less effective in the process, and even Santonio Holmes missed a few games. Furthermore, most of the injuries occurred during the second half of the season. Granted, we're depending on some degree of luck here, but if our starting lineup stays relatively healthy, then I think we'll look more like the team that started 9-3 than the team that finished 1-4.