Fact or Fiction: Ryan Shazier will be the top rookie in the AFC North in 2014

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

A group of ESPN writers got together to debate that topic, as well as others pertaining to the AFC North this season.

Opinions will, and should, vary. The beat writers of teams, for as objective as they portray, are ultimately subjective because the vantage point from which they report is always based on the team they cover.

That's why it's interesting to get their opinions printed directly with each other.

The NFL Nation reporters covering the AFC North for ESPN (Scott Brown for the Steelers, Jamison Hensley for the Ravens, James McManamon for the Browns and Cole Harvey for the Bengalsmet to discuss four topics, one for each team, after the 2014 NFL Draft.

The fact/fiction statement regarding the Steelers is "Ryan Shazier will be the top defensive rookie in the AFC North."

Brown: Fact
Hensley: Fiction
Harvey: Fiction
McManamon: Fiction

Arguments like this could go either way, and if any opinion can be swayed, it's on the reasonableness of the argument. McManamon's is laughably absurd.

Fiction. Ah, that Steelers optimism. There's nothing not to like about Shazier, or the Steelers, who draft well and play hard. But to automatically assume Shazier is the best defensive rookie in the AFC North ignores the fact that the other division teams took immediate defensive starters: Cleveland with cornerback Justin Gilbert, Cincinnati with cornerback Darqueze Denard and Baltimore with linebacker C.J. Mosely. All are expected to be immediate starters. All are extremely good players. What in the world makes it more likely that Shazier will be the best rookie other than he wears black and gold?

As odd as this may seem to a reporter covering the team and fan base sporting the largest inferiority complex in all of sports, it is possible that Shazier is simply a good football player, and the notion of him being the best among the group isn't all that crazy.

Here are a few things you missed, Mr. McManamon:

Fact: Shazier will also likely start. 
Fact: Gilbert showed a lack of ability as well as a lack of willingness to tackle throughout his college tape. 
Fact: Shazier was drafted ahead of Mosley for a reason (faster, showed more splash play ability)
Fact: Dennard is spelled with two "n"s. 
Fact: Dennard was passed over by all three teams, leading to the conclusion he isn't as "extremely good" as the ones drafted ahead of him.

If you don't think he will be, argue that. What's presented here is basically "I don't think he will be because others might be." A little effort never killed anyone, sir.

If I'm Todd Haley right now, I would have spent a few hours just getting fired up, looking for ways to attack Gilbert in short space, if he is, in fact, a starter in Week 1. I'd love to see him against Le'Veon Bell in the open field. He whiffed badly on tackle attempts of players much smaller and less quick than Bell. Mark this down, first play of the season will be a run right at Gilbert, if he's on the field.

Suggesting Shazier is the best among the group is a valid opinion in many ways, and it also may not end up being the conclusion at the end of the 2014 season. But to suggest it's not true now for no reason other than "other teams drafted defensive players in the first round too" is just idiotic.

On behalf of Steeler Nation, we're sorry (not sorry) you're upset over the fact, as fans, we're excited about Shazier. We'll keep this one around come Week 1, and please be prepared to answer for it after that game.

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