AFC North Roundup: Bengals, Steelers & Ravens

A Super Bowl bid, home-field advantage and the return of Fisher-Price

Pittsburgh Steelers Readying Bid for 2023 Super Bowl

With Super Bowl XLVII a success despite being played outside at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey in the dead of winter, the NFL seems to be more open to the biggest event of the season being hosted by cold-weather, domeless teams. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to be the latest, cold weather, out-of-doors team to make the Super Bowl their own.

Steelers president Art Rooney II, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto and other bigwigs in the community have been meeting to assemble an application to bid for Heinz Field to be the site of the 2023 Super Bowl—or Super Bowl LVII—reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mark Belko. Rooney released a statement on Wednesday about the bid, which reads: “The application is an early step in the bidding process, and we will continue to meet with representatives of the mayor’s office, county executive’s office, VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny Conference as well as other community leaders to review the requirements with hopes of submitting our bid to host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.”

The application is the first step in the process for the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh to submit a formal bid for the right to host the Super Bowl. The NFL will determine which teams have the right to bid for 2023 in 2018. If they do earn that right, the NFL will name their finalist cities in October of that year, and determine the host city in May, 2019. The Steelers are currently in the process of putting together an advisory board that will visit other Super Bowl host cities in order to strengthen their bid.

Peduto said, “We do believe that Pittsburgh has an opportunity to be competitive with it. But it’s a long process, and we just want to make sure that we’re all together on this.” Pittsburgh, especially the downtown area, has long been a hotbed for conventions and other large-scale events, thanks to its glut of hotel space. That hotel space, in particular, could prove influential to the Steelers’ odds to host the Super Bowl in 2023. It also doesn’t hurt that the Steelers are six-time Super Bowl champions; the history of the team is tied to the NFL’s championship game, which could prove to be another asset when it comes to their chances to be the host city.

Baltimore Ravens: Ravens Possess the Best Home-Field Advantage in All of Professional Sports, But…

A study conducted by Time magazine determined that the Baltimore Ravens have the best home-field advantage in all of American professional sports. The study spans the past 10 years and also takes into account road performance. Time noted that in the last 10 years, the Ravens have won 78 percent of their home games, with the Seattle Seahawks coming in second, and the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings coming in third and fourth among NFL teams. In other sports, the NBA’s Utah Jazz comes in second overall behind the Ravens.

But it’s not all roses and sunshine for the Ravens—not when half of the team’s games are played on the road (not counting the playoffs). Time also noted that the Ravens have won only 43 percent of their road games in the same span, including going winless on the road in 2005. That 35-point swing between the road and at home should be of concern to the Ravens this year, especially with the team opening their season at the Denver Broncos and having to face the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals on the road as well.

Though being so dominant at home has its perks—such as in 2011, when the Ravens went undefeated at home—their struggles on the road have almost single-handedly led to the Ravens having to face 13 road playoff games of their last 15. Given that the Ravens win on the road less than 50 percent of the time, it’s possible their road-based slumps have directly led to missed Super Bowl opportunities.

Cincinnati Bengals: Return of the “Fisher-Price” Pass Rush?

In 2010, then-Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer dubbed the team’s pass-rush their “Fisher-Price” package, owing to the trio of young players tasked with running it. The three—Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson—were each in their first or second seasons in the NFL, and the way Zimmer put the rush package together was designed to get the most out of unseasoned players.

But now, five years later, the trio have come back together. Last year, Johnson was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Atkins was slowly working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in 2013 and looked unlike his typical marauding self. As such, the Bengals totaled only 20 sacks in 2014, down from 43 in 2013 and 51 in 2012. “Fisher-Price” is having a revival, this time under second-year defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.

Dunlap is looking forward to the three hitting the field together again this year, saying to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jim Owczarski on Wednesday that, “The ‘Fisher-Price,’ that’s one of the things that started the pass rush here with the Bengals. We want to finish all together as Bengals. That’s one thing that can revive our pass rush, and I just look forward to continuing to compete and getting better together. That’s one thing we’ve built our pass rushing game on is competing.”

Johnson is happy to be back with his old team, saying, “It’s like I feel refreshed after being away a little bit. I have a knowledge of seven years of experience with the excitement of a rookie, really. I’m just ready to get back in the fold, get back in the mix of things. And take it to a whole other level and be even better.”

Dunlap is also optimistic about the rest of the Bengals’ defensive linemen being able to improve the team’s pass-rush this year, adding, “Having me, Mike, Wallace [Gilberry] and Geno out there competing, and a young Will [Clarke] and Margus [Hunt] stepping up into their own, competing to see who gets back there to the quarterback first is going to be huge for us. That’s one thing we couldn’t do as much last year because we didn’t have the rotation.”

Rushing the passer was once the hallmark of the Bengals’ defense. Now, their core of veteran defensive linemen are dedicating themselves to returning the Bengals pass-rush to its prior prominence. The fact that younger players, too, have managed to improve during the offseason should also help them achieve this goal even if another injury like Atkins’ befalls the defensive line this year.

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