AFC North Report: Woes in Ohio

<p>Week 6 and things still look ugly in the AFC North. But the rest of the AFC is falling back to this miserable pack (the Patriots now have as many losses as the Steelers) and the AFC West is beginning to beat up on each other. 2002 looks a little bit brighter in Pittsburgh.</p>

Baltimore Ravens - Perhaps you might point to the fact that the Ravens lost and the Steelers won. First, the Ravens two victories look a little more impressive than the Steelers two wins. Second, the Ravens were without their heart and soul, LB Ray Lewis, and the Indianapolis Colts still had to eek out a victory in the waning seconds of the game. The Steelers will either have to succeed where the Ravens have failed (perhaps next Monday night) or beat them head-to-head (the following week) to move ahead of Baltimore in the North.

The Ravens played another spirited game even though AFC North King Lewis sat on the sidelines. Frankly, the Colts don't look like a 4-1 team. Still, the Ravens defense held Peyton Manning in check and stuffed RB Edgerrin James. The Ravens are still playing the best defense in the North right now. This young group should get nothing but better and the eminent return of King Lewis does not bode well for the rest of the division.

The Colts defense is horrible and the Ravens still struggled to put points on the board. When the Browns start QB Kelly Holcomb, the Ravens are ranked #3 offensively in the division. With Couch at the helm in Cleveland, Baltimore might be #2. However, the Steelers are quickly distinguishing themselves as the offensive class of the division. The Ravens are merely playing not to turnover the ball and let the defense and special teams win the games.

SteelCity Summary: The Ravens showed some depth on defense with Ray Lewis sitting out. Still, the Ravens are still thin at almost every position and any injuries to the secondary could spell the end of Baltimore's hopes of a division title.

p.s. Well, WR Ron Johnson finally started but he didn't do much on the field. Does Redman even see him?

Pittsburgh Steelers - Say what you want about the ongoing Tommy Maddox/Kordell Stewart debate, but the Steelers went from laying eggs on offense to leading the AFC North in scoring. Perhaps Maddox is the benefactor of good timing, but if he maintains his current throwing TD pace he'll easily exceed what Stewart accomplished in 1997, but in less games started. For now, the Steelers are a better team with Maddox at the helm.

The kicking game, however, is abysmal. K Todd Peterson is hardly making Steelers fans forget Kris Brown. The average field position for the opposition after a Peterson kickoff is about the same if Peterson kicked the ball out of bounds, every time. The time is now for Cowher and Colbert to do something desperate. Actually, the Steelers won't likely go searching for a kickoff specialist (which is what they should do), but try P Josh Miller again. The Steelers have to do something or they will continue to put their defense in a hole.

The defense is in sore need of some confidence building. The defense didn't play a great game, but the Bengals ineptness was the perfect elixir for an ailing unit. The Steelers should get another shot in the arm next week with the return of LB Kendrell Bell. The defense clearly misses him and his mere presence should open up the field for a number of players that have been quiet so far, namely OLB Jason Gildon. I expect the defense to get steadily better each week and perhaps by Week 12 or so, the Steelers will be ready to face some of the league elites.

SteelCity Summary: There are still a host of problems, but the most glaring might be solved by the return of Kendrell Bell and trying Josh Miller on kickoff duties.

p.s. There are still problems on the offensive line. The Steelers do have some depth there and now might be the time to use it.

Cleveland Browns - I doubt many expected the Browns to travel to Tampa Bay and win. But did anyone expect Cleveland's offense to be that bad? QB Tim Couch really needed a strong showing and he just didn't deliver. The Browns could have lost, but the fans were looking for something from their leader. Couch crumbled in the face of the Bucs pressure. Still, the main problem is the offensive line. This has been a chronic problem in Cleveland and it looks like it will carry over into another season, probably 2003. There was no room to run (not that RB William Green would know what to do with that) and Couch had a defender in his face on almost every pass attempt. The sum of the Browns efforts, they scored a measly 3 points.

Tampa Bay doesn't exactly have an explosive offense, so it is difficult to use the 17 points as any sort of benchmark. The Bucs hung 186 yards rushing on the Browns suspect defense. Take note Jerome Bettis, RB Mike Alstott ripped off 126 of those yards at, get this, 7.4 yards per carry. Furthermore, the Browns did not sack Brad Johnson even once. This is a blowout, Bucs style.

SteelCity Summary: The Browns look as lost as the Steelers did at the beginning of the season. Butch Davis needs to be careful not to lose this team.

p.s. I don't know about you, but I am in the Kelly Holcomb for starting QB camp.

Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals don't have a quarterback.

SteelCity Summary: The Bengals don't have a quarterback.

p.s. Byron Leftwich or Dave Ragone? Let the debate begin!


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