Let’s be honest here– Who in the AFC North has a better chance of not just actually winning it but running the table in the process? I’ve seen fans proclaim the Ravens can with the addition of Jeremy Maclin. Some have argued the Cincinnati Bengals, however, the funniest may be the Cleveland Browns. Yes, someone actually said the Browns can win. But hey, we’ve seen stranger things happen.
Too bad 2017 will not be that year for any other team besides the Steelers.
In 2016, it almost happened then. The Steelers lost one game in the AFC North and that was to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 during their struggle period. The Steelers were fresh off two straight defeats at the hands of the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins as they were getting Le’Veon Bell back into the fold. While the Ravens took advantage of some costly mistakes the Steelers took that loss in stride and went on a tear for the rest of the season.
So that’s one loss in six games in the tough AFC North so who’s to think they can’t sweep it this season?
What has exactly changed for the division? What team has made a major move that says this can’t happen? For Ravens fans– is Maclin that good that he can single-handedly beat the Steelers by himself? For Bengals fans– has Andy Dalton cured his illness of choking in big games? And for my Browns fans– are the young guys ready to make that big leap?
The Steelers are not without their flaws but when discussing the smash mouth division– there is no one tougher.
Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the QB’s I want behind center when the game is on the line. Despite what critics may say about his body breaking down, Roethlisberger still passed for 3800+ yards and 26+ touchdowns in 14 starts. But this is what separates the Steelers from the rest of the division. The Bengals are A.J. Green or bust. The Ravens are Flacco or bust and the Browns– they’re still trying to figure out their secret formula. Pittsburgh has various weapons at their disposal with Big Ben, Antonio Brown, and Bell. Now, the return of Martavis Bryant gives them another threat that can unleash.
Last year’s 5-1 record was an indication of what’s to come this season. While many fans of the other teams will point to the Steelers close calls like their four-point win against the Bengals in Week 15 or the four-point win against the Ravens in Week 16 then coupled with an overtime victory against the Browns in Week 17. Those are fair points but at the end of the day– a win is a win. What those wins prove is that good teams find a way to win no matter the margin.
It’s the experience the Steelers have that will have them riding shotgun in the North once again. Six games, one loss in 2016. Six games, no losses in 2017. Its as simple as that.