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mesaSteeler
02-11-2010, 08:32 PM
(Note I only cut out the AFC North section of the article. If you are interested in the rest of the article see the URL. - mesa)
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/jim_trotter/02/11/afc/index.html

AFC NORTH
Greg Nelson/SI

PITTSBURGH STEELERS -- Is it time to start retooling the defense?

The Steelers defense, which ranked No. 1 in nearly every statistical category in 2008, blew five fourth-quarter leads last season. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh went from Super Bowl champion to out of the playoffs. The Steelers undoubtedly missed All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who was sidelined 11 games with a knee injury. But the late-game collapses might also be attributed to age; seven of the regular starters were 30 or older last season. Another factor was the secondary. The cornerbacks did not intercept a pass until the season finale. That's unacceptable considering opponents attempted 548 passes against the Steelers, tying for ninth-most in the league. Ike Taylor is solid, but William Gay was a liability. Look for 2009 third-round pick Keenan Lewis to challenge for a starting job.

*And another thing: Can the Steelers get back to their smash-mouth identity? Owner Dan Rooney suggested after last season that Pittsburgh had strayed too far from its roots -- also known as the running game. That won't happen this year. There are building blocks for a power-running game in guard Chris Kemoeatu and tackle Willie Colon, but the other starters are replaceable. One problem: Pittsburgh has a lot of money invested in the line and isn't likely to spend more at that position.

BALTIMORE RAVENS -- Is there a need to revamp the offense?

The Ravens have relied on their running game since the turn of the century, but the passing attack must improve for the team to have a better chance of reaching the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco is the first franchise-type QB Baltimore has had under GM Ozzie Newsome, but his stable of receivers isn't deep or talented. Too often Flacco looks for talented veteran Derrick Mason at the expense of younger receivers. Mason was the only wideout to finish with more than 34 catches, and his seven touchdowns matched all the other wideouts combined. Could a trade for Denver's Marshall be a possibility?

*And another thing: The player to watch is safety Ed Reed. He's one of the game's alltime great ballhawks, but said after the playoffs his return was 50-50. Tom Zbikowski filled in capably, but is he the longterm answer should Reed retire?

CINCINNATI BENGALS -- Anyone know a good tight end and wideout?

The Bengals made great strides on defense and with their running game, but the passing game suffered last season because it lacked weapons. QB Carson Palmer lost his top two tight ends to injury in training camp and never had a consistent complement to wideout Chad Ochocinco. In fact, the Bengals ranked 26th in the league with only 36 completions of at least 20 yards. The Bengals have to find a capable and consistent deep threat, otherwise their chances of repeating as division champions are remote.

*And another thing: As well as the defense played in its second year under coordinator Mike Zimmer, the Bengals have to find help at safety. Strong safety Roy Williams and free safety Chris Crocker turn 30 this year, and neither is a ballhawk. If they can find a playmaker on the back end to go with talented corners Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, turnovers and defensive touchdowns could come in bunches.

CLEVELAND BROWNS -- It's February, do you know who your quarterback is?

The Browns played musical QBs with Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson last season, and now there's a report they have inquired about the availability of Eagles signal-caller Donovan McNabb. It has been said that if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one. Coach Eric Mangini needs to find one and stick with him. Anderson reportedly will be released before his $2 million roster bonus comes due next month, but the talk of McNabb, if true, say little for the club's confidence in Quinn. The Browns closed the season with their first four-game winning streak since rejoining the league in 1999, and they must improve a passing game that had a league-low 25 completions of 20 yards or more to maintain that momentum.

*And another thing: The Browns have 11 draft picks and a new GM, Tom Heckert, who comes from an Eagles organization that favors drafting for quality instead of need. It's unclear whether that will be the case in Cleveland, but if Heckert does decide to go for need he should look at wide receiver, defensive back, running back and linebacker.



Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/jim_trotter/02/11/afc/1.html#ixzz0fHTzQrsq
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JEFF4i
02-13-2010, 03:56 AM
Lost me at Ike Taylor was solid. Gay didn't play exactly beautifully, but Taylor wasn't solid either.

steeltheone
02-13-2010, 08:32 PM
The age factor was right on.