Around the AFC North: Defenseless Ravens and Steelers are shells of what they used to be

Rob Carr - Getty Images

Baltimore is beaten down and life isn't good behind the steel curtain. What's happening to the formerly dominant defenses of the AFC?

Remember when mock teams were fantastically put together combining defensive players from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens? Humorous hyperbole was bandied around, but with all seriousness intended, over which stat would be higher: points allowed, rushing yards allowed or sacks?

For the first time in Ravens history, they've allowed over 400 rushing yards in two consecutive games combined, as the Cowboys ran through them as if they had 10 players on the field.

In many ways, they did.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered a knee injury, and an impending MRI is expected to confirm a torn ACL, which would end his 2012 season. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been hampered by a shoulder injury and suffered an apparent leg injury during the game. Linebacker Ray Lewis left the game in the second half and didn't return with a triceps injury that could keep him out for an extended period of time.

And all of this with defensive end Terrell Suggs hanging onto hope he - at 29 years of age - will be able to return in seven months from an injury that usually takes a year to heal.

The Steelers' injuries are more focused on the offensive side of the ball, suggesting what used to be a bitter and physical defensive game could look more like junior varsity versions of the epic battles they've had in the past.

While those games are far off, the Ravens are heading into Houston for a game against the run-heavy Texans in Week 7 - a game that appears now to start an over/under rushing yards for the Texans somewhere near 250.

The Steelers are struggling to find a way to work out a defense that allowed double-digit fourth quarter points in all of its road games. Heading into what's essentially become a must-win game at Cincinnati on Sunday night of Week 7, Pittsburgh will already miss their first 6-2 start to a season under coach Mike Tomlin.

It's unclear what the combined forces of defensive players on these two teams would do against today's NFL. At this point, scraping them both together may resemble a mediocre defense.

Assuming they're all healthy, that is.


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