AFC North Report: Any punches left?

<p>The AFC North was settled this past weekend. Sure, both the Browns and the Ravens are still mathematically in the hunt, but the Steelers took the best shots from both teams in their crib and came out with a win. Straight up is the best way to figure out who is best and the Steelers are 4-0 in the division (best divisional record in the AFC right now).</p>

Pittsburgh Steelers - The game against the Cleveland Browns is as close to a heavyweight fight the North is going to get this season. The Browns gave the Steelers their best punch early on and the Steelers were the ones left standing. The Steelers hardly put up their best fight, but it was still good enough to beat the Browns in Cleveland.

The woes on special teams are back, but the Steelers were able to overcome them this time. This was not a Super Bowl performance, but Pittsburgh did show playoff character. They never panicked and they didn't fold. The Steelers demonstrated a lot of patience against a spirited but less talented Browns team.

There are still lapses in coverage, but the Steelers did make the right second half adjustment. The pressure on Couch was mostly thanks to coverage. Couch had nowhere to throw the ball. The Steelers can handle the Michael Vick show next week in Pittsburgh. The Ravens demonstrated how the 3-4 could be used to confuse this inexperienced quarterback.

SteelCity Summary - The Steelers have two divisional games left, both at home. The Steelers just need to win when and where they are supposed to win.

p.s. Time for the Steelers to rediscover the running game. The opposition will now run the cover-two against Maddox and Bettis/Zereoue need to respond.

Cleveland Browns - Obviously, yesterday's game against the Steelers meant the world to the Browns. They sure came out with a playoff fire and had an answer for every move Pittsburgh made. The opening script was flawless and the Browns had the Steelers reeling, down by 11 points. The Steelers then threw almost the entire offensive playbook at the Browns and this young team was soon running scared.

The shocker was the lack of the spread formation against the Steelers defense. The Steelers, not the Browns, went to the no-huddle spread and used it to win the game. Cowher and Mularkey hardly scripted a masterpiece, but they outmaneuvered Butch Davis and his crew. The Browns just didn't have the answers and the Steelers did.

The Browns continue to find ways to use their special teams to win games, or at least stay in them. Statistically, the Steelers blew out the Browns. The special teams play almost balanced the ledger. The Browns will continue to win games thanks to this advantage and don't count them out of the playoffs just yet.

SteelCity Summary - The Steelers just have the Browns number this year. They don't necessarily look better; they just end up on the right side of the score.

p.s. Was that Phil Dawson doing his best Kris Brown in the 4th quarter?

Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens don't like the Steelers and the Steelers don't like the Ravens. Nonetheless, the Steelers should send the Ravens a nice thank-you card. The Ravens put the big kibosh on all the recent Michael Vick hype. Born this past Sunday was a treasure trove of wonderful film on how to contain Vick.

Mostly, the Ravens confused the inexperienced quarterback with blitzes from every direction and coverages that could confuse Peyton Manning. Did you see Tim Couch hold on to the ball too long against the Steelers? That's what the Ravens did to Vick. Thus, Vick was indecisive and prone to mistakes. What the Ravens did to Vick you can expect even that much more from the Steelers.

The Ravens should have beaten the Falcons. Baltimore had the superior game plan, but the inexperience of this young squad finally caught up with them. The Steelers brought the high-flying Ravens back down to earth and the Falcons were there to reap the benefits. Baltimore made a host of silly rookie mistakes and this time it cost them. The Ravens can expect a long, tough week of practice.

SteelCity Summary - The Ravens still have yet to play the Bengals. This match up is beginning to look interesting.

p.s. Still, no one tackles as well as the Ravens.

Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals finally get one for the win column and they did it in style. This is still a talented and dangerous team. They simply looked cursed by a poor front office. Yet, there is no magic in the Browns front office either. The difference is coaching. The Bengals need a change there before they consider any other moves.

The Texans do have a pretty good defense and the Browns certainly didn't make Houston look all that bad. I still suspect that the best team in Ohio is in Cincinnati. They just need to let their inner-playoff self out. Good coaching can do that.

As noted above, the two match ups yet to come between the Ravens and the Bengals should be very interesting. The Bengals could establish themselves as the up and comer in the North and serve notice to the rest of the league that free agent relocation to Cincinnati may not necessarily be a bad thing.

SteelCity Summary - Chad Johnson's comments about guaranteeing a win over the Texans shows a lack of leadership. Johnson should not be the one mouthing off in the media.

p.s. Dillon should be the one mouthing off, but not about how he is threatening to retire.


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