clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Posing some burning questions surrounding all teams who call the AFC North home

The Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and Browns all have question marks heading into 2019. We pose some tough questions for all four teams.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, ESPN put out some burning questions regarding all teams who call the AFC North home, and with there being very little news coming out of the black-and-gold camp, and this is a good thing, I thought it would be fun to pose those questions to the BTSC community to see how they would answer.

These questions will surround the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

See the questions below, along with ESPN’s response, and feel free to join the conversation in the comment section below and let your voice be heard!

Pittsburgh Steelers

Will the last remaining Killer B, Ben Roethlisberger, put the drama behind him and restore the Steelers back among the AFC’s elite?

ESPN’s Take:

Yes, but not solely based on resurgence from the quarterback. Sure, Roethlisberger will find a way to stay productive without Antonio Brown -- he’s better than most at spreading the ball around -- but the division doesn’t feature a clear-cut favorite. The Browns got better but still have holes in several spots, including offensive line, and it’s uncertain how they respond if they start slowly. Defenses will be more prepared for the run-heavy Ravens offense. The Steelers, meanwhile, will miss Brown but will try to replace him with cohesion and a balanced attack. The stage is set for Roethlisberger to have one of his best seasons. The team has publicly supported him, the offense is built around him, and he has at least nine viable pass-catching options. The defense features enough new pieces to show improvement, so Roethlisberger doesn’t have to do it all. Several players reveled in a drama-free environment during minicamp. Guard David DeCastro called it more “team-oriented.” All of that hardly guarantees 12 wins. But nine or 10 of them might just clinch the division, and the Steelers can rely on pedigree -- and Roethlisberger’s arm -- to make it happen. “We’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Roethlisberger said about the perceived underdog role in 2019. -- Jeremy Fowler

Cleveland Browns

Are the Browns primed to take over atop the AFC North?

ESPN’s Take:

Yes, indeed. There is a constant sense of fatalism surrounding the Browns, deeply and collectively shared among the fan base after so much losing. But Cleveland’s window of opportunity in the AFC North has finally arrived. The Steelers no longer have wideout Antonio Brown or running back Le’Veon Bell. The Bengals have a new coach after losing seven of their final eight games to end last season. And the Ravens have had to overhaul their depth chart. The Browns, meanwhile, have upgraded their talent in a big way this offseason. General manager John Dorsey added Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr., defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a roster loaded with potential future stars, such as cornerback Denzel Ward and defensive end Myles Garrett. Factor in the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who dazzled as a rookie, and the Browns are primed to make their run and finally take the division crown. -- Jake Trotter

Baltimore Ravens

Will Lamar Jackson develop into an effective passing quarterback in Year 2?

ESPN’s Take:

No one can predict this with any certainty right now. What the Ravens know is they’ve done all they can to help him become one. Baltimore promoted Greg Roman to offensive coordinator because of his previous success with mobile quarterbacks and used three of its first four draft picks on offensive skill position players (wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin along with running back Justice Hill). The Ravens have upgraded the speed around Jackson, which should help his efficiency. Short passes can turn into big gains. For Jackson to establish himself as an effective passer, he needs to come through when defenses know he’s going to throw the ball. On third downs, Jackson ranked No. 31 in passer rating (76.0) and No. 32 in completion rate (55.1 percent) last season. It’s just difficult to make projections for Jackson. During last year’s training camp, Jackson didn’t look ready to start in the NFL. A few months later, he’s leading the Ravens to their first AFC North title in six years. Baltimore won’t know the strides Jackson has made as a passer until the games begin. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

What’s more likely: This is the beginning of the end for Andy Dalton, or it’s the start of a career revival under Zac Taylor?

ESPN’s Take:

The Bengals have long stood by Dalton and said he’s the guy they want leading the team, but they haven’t had much to show for it with no playoff wins, and the window with A.J. Green in his prime starting to close. There’s more pressure than ever for Dalton to perform under a new head coach, although it certainly doesn’t hurt that Taylor has a quarterback background. If anyone can get Dalton to maximize his potential, it’s probably Taylor. However, it seems unlikely that Dalton will see another contract in Cincinnati, even if he performs to the best of his ability. In that situation, he could price himself out of Cincinnati. And if he doesn’t perform, the team might go with another option anyway. The Bengals have been able to build around him with a team-friendly deal, but it seems unlikely that they would elect to pay him the market rate for quarterbacks over drafting a younger, cheaper alternative. Dalton still has the ability to take that next step, but it’s not certain he’s the quarterback in Cincinnati after the 2021 season. -- Katherine Terrell

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold this offseason.