Breakdown of the AFC contenders (March edition)

Blitz's post this morning got me thinking about how the off-season has thus far affected the state of the AFC.  When I look at what has transpired since the Super Bowl, I can't help but like how it bodes for us.  None of the teams who were better than us in '09 appear to have strengthened themselves in what I would call a definitive way.  Consider:

Indy?  Status quo.  They resigned Gary Brackett, which was a good move, and I'm sure they'll be right there again in 2010.  But this is a team we've had decent success with.  I would not consider Indy considerably better than us heading into next season.

San Diego?  They've lost LT, Kassim Osgood, Jamal Williams, Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Manumaleuna while bringing in Kerry Rhodes.   Plus, Norv Turner is still the HC.  Enough said. 

Cincy?  $28 million for Antonio Bryant?  Please.  He's had one Pro Bowl-quality season (in '08, when he was 83-1,248-7 td's) and last year he caught 39 balls.  Carson Palmer is immobile and they'll play a 1st place schedule next season.  They have not gotten better.

Baltimore?  Yes, they've upgraded.  But it would have been a war between us and Baltimore no matter what, so this is pretty much a wash.

NY Jets?   They seem better with the acquisition of Cromartie, but there are a lot of variables there.  How will a guy who's fathered 7 kids with 6 different women in 5 states adjust to life in NYC?  How much will losing Thomas Jones affect the run game?  Shonn Greene really only had a couple of big playoff games.  Otherwise he had a marginal rookie season.  Can he really carry the load?  And Leon Washington, their big game-breaker, will be 28 and coming off of a gruesome leg injury.  Will he still have the same burst?  The Jets are good but they have some unanswered questions.

New England?  Well, as Johnny_S wrote in Blitz's post, they're definitely not the team they once were.  Honestly, does New England scare you anymore?  I'm not saying they're not good.  But do they scare you?  Not me.

Which brings us to the Steelers.  We've added depth at receiver and on special teams, retained our stable starting safety, will get two All-Pro defenders back who were absent from most of last season, and will have had a long off-season to prepare for 2010 (unlike the shortened one that was a product of winning SB 43).  There is, of course, that tricky mess involving the franchise QB, but nothing I've heard yet suggests that his case will infringe upon his playing status.  Whether he can patch things up with the Rooneys and his coaches and teammates is another matter, but if he has any sense at all he'll return a humbled and determined individual.  Provided things go his way in the assault case, I would not be surprised if Big Ben has a monster season next year.  And that too bodes well for us.

All things considered, then, there isn't a team in the conference right now that is better than we are.  That's exciting.  And I know it's only March, and a lot can change between now and September, but I'm already looking forward to us making a deep run at Lombardi  #7 in 2010.

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