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2018 Season NFL Preview: AFC North

Manraj Deol
CONTRIBUTOR
Top 5 / Top 10
286   //    24 Aug 2018, 19:23 IST

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers
The Le'Veon Bell era might be in its last season, but if he leaves after this year, he will make it his best year in the Black and Yellow

The AFC North has long been one of the hardest divisions to get through. This year some teams are on the right direction to further toughen this division. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens have been the strong teams in the last decade.

Those teams are followed by the playoff bust the Cinncinati Bengals. The bottom feeder in this division has been the Cleveland Browns, the joke of the NFL. This time though the Browns have made some personnel changes that could make the Browns a more competitive team.


#1 Pittsburgh Steelers

The Le'Veon Bell era might be in its last season, but if he leaves after this year, he will make it his best year in the Black and Yellow. Offensive players like Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger are back to join Bell in the bonafide trifecta. Young offensive weapons JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Vance MacDonald, and Jesse James, join the trio in a full-fledged offensive masterpiece.

Strengths

Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of this team for years and has the had the trio offensive weapons for a few years now. Ben Rothlesberger is not getting younger, his value to the team is getting less year by year. When Roethlisberger is healthy, he is a decent quarterback and has had decent numbers over past few years. The real strength for the Steelers and Roethlisberger is weapons like Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.

Brown has consistently had the best numbers as a receiver in the NFL over the past few years. Most pundits will rank him number one as the best wide receiver in football. Brown helps many fans when he is the consensus number one fantasy wide receiver as well year after year.

Bell is the same as Brown but as a running back. Bell is a force at running the ball and pass catching making him a dual threat in NFL stats and as a fantasy back. Bell is often pegged as the best running back in football and for fantasy football as well. The Steelers have the best running back and receiver in the NFL, but they have more weapons than just those two.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Vance Macdonald, and Jesse James help to bolster the receiving corps. James Conner will help the team with giving Bell a rest at times. All three players suggested are capable players that could start on other teams. The offensive line is active and will provide the quarterback, and the running backs plenty of time to make plays.

Kicker Chris Boswell is as consistent as they come. When you can rely on your kicker for points almost call it automatic is always a strength. In the defensive area, the rise of TJ Watt last year was pleasant.

After the terrible injury to captain Ryan Shazier, the linebackers have had to step it up, and they have. The trio of TJ watt, Vince Williams, and Bud Dupree should have a solid campaign and lead the Steelers defence in tackles.

Weakness

Roethlisberger isn't getting younger; they drafted Mason Rudolph whom many people were very high on including myself. The two other quarterbacks would be a problem if Rothlisberger got injured again.

Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs to me don't have what it take to be an NFL quarterback and why I think Rudolph should be the number two. While we talk about the receiving strength, the wide receiver group itself is weak.

Relying on rookie James Washington, Justin Hunter, and Darrius Heyward-Bey as a third wide receiver shows the thin group the Steelers have at wide receiver itself.

The defence is not what the Steelers of old used to be. There are no thumpers on this defence; they can struggle against potent offences. They are an average overall group at best. Mike Tomlin and crew will have to work with these players to achieve their career bests this year.

Players to Watch: Terrell Edmunds (S), TJ Watt (LB), James Washington (WR), and James Conner (RB)

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Manraj Deol
CONTRIBUTOR
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