No one in the AFC North knows this is a passing league.
It's obvious. Just look at their roster moves since the start of free agency.
The Pittsburgh Steelers added LeGarrette Blount to Le'Veon Bell, creating perhaps the best running back combination in the AFC North.They bolstered the power and quickess of LeBackfield with Dri Archer, possibly now the fastest player in the NFL, with a third round pick.
The Cleveland Browns signed prized free agent RB Ben Tate, then drafted FCS star Terrence West in the third round, and inked highly touted RB Isaiah Crowell in undrafted free agency. They retained the services of center Alex Mack with a long-term deal, and, despite star receiver Josh Gordon staring down the barrel of a year-long suspension, the team didn't address the receiver position at all. Oh yeah, and they drafted that Johnny Manziel quarterback - mobile and dangerous running threat.
Cincinnati took a running back in the second round for the second straight season. LSU's Jeremy Hill is more of the full compliment running back compared to explosive multi-purpose Giovani Bernard. Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis remains there, looking to compete for carries in a run-focused Bengals offense.
And they see each other's moves as well. The Steelers signed defensive end Cam Thoams and drafted linebacker Ryan Shazier and DE Stephon Tuitt with their first two picks. Baltimore added LB C.J. Mosley and nose tackle Timmy Jernigan with theirs along with DE Brent Urban in the fourth. Defensive end Will Clarke and center Russell Bodine joined the Bengals and Cleveland added athletic offensive lineman Joel Bitonio and run-stuffing inside linebacker Christian Kirksey.
Buckle up your chinstraps and get ready to be ignored nationally, the AFC North is going to return to running the football.
The proliferation of spread offenses is rampant, and all of these teams may have been susceptible to the craze, at least to a moderate degree. At the same time, no division in the league rushed worse than the North, with Cincinnati leading the "charge" at 109.7 yards per game - 18th in the NFL. Cleveland and Pittsburgh tied for 27th with an anemic 86.4 yards per game, and Baltimore managed to outrush just two teams (Jacksonville and Atlanta, two teams that drafted in the top six) with 83 yards per game.
All four teams made improvements to their run blocking and running backs and all four teams made finding defensive players a priority - all four selected defensive players in the first round, and Pittsburgh and Baltimore invested their first two picks on that side of the ball.
Each team plays six games within the newly restructured AFC North and South Runners and clearly are modifying their particular units to run the ball and stop the run.
That's so 2005.
To whatever degree these teams morph their runners into the Jerome Bettises, Jamal Lewises and Rudy Johnsons of the current generation remains to be seen, but if nothing else it appears all four teams are trying to turn back the clocks, turn down the tempo and turn forward the grind.