Jerome Bettis says Steelers are "least improved" team in the AFC North

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Former Steelers running back favors Cincinnati in the division in 2013.

Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has rankled the ire of Steelers fans by decrying his former team’s chances in both games and overall seasons in the past.

It makes one wonder how much he may have in common with Warren Sapp – other than their weight and Hall of Fame pedigrees.

Bettis spoke with Dave Damashek on the Dave Damashek Football Program Friday, labeling the Steelers as the team that improved the least this offseason, and ranking them behind Cincinnati (first) and Baltimore (second) as the likeliest team to win the division.

"The question mark in the division is the Steelers," Bettis said on the show. "How will they perform? Will they be able to run the football? Will the defense be able to stay intact? They've got some questions that need to be answered, so right now if I had to step out of my body and give a prediction I'd say the edge goes to Cincinnati, then Baltimore, then Pittsburgh, then Cleveland."

It’s fair criticism, although it’s debatable how much any team in the AFC North improved, if that’s the way Bettis views it. Baltimore lost several players, replacements being whomever. Cincinnati’s improvements this offseason don’t appear to be any stronger than the moves the Steelers made.

In fact, one might argue Cleveland, just with the removal of the ineffective Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress, and the addition of two accomplished coordinators, did more to improve their team. At its root, and the height at which any of the four teams in the AFC North ascend this season aside, the division appears to be tighter than in recent years, which could make for a very interesting final quarter of the season.

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