Home » Blog » AFC North: Pittsburgh is the team to Beat

AFC North: Pittsburgh is the team to Beat

The AFC North is a battle between two of the toughest teams in football. The division at this time is led by Baltimore who out slugged the Cleveland Browns on Sunday 25-15 to push their record to 7-2 and are currently a game and a half in front of Pittsburgh, which is 5-3 and playing tonight against Kansas City. Cincinnati defeated the New York Giants on Sunday to move to 4-5 but is three games back and Cleveland brings up the rear at a woeful 2-7.

Regardless of the current standings, the AFC North’s team to beat is the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is not because of the stars like Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu or James Harrison but because of Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall.

Those three players are the three top running backs the Steelers have and will make the difference in a tight division race that everyone expects. The three have proven this season that they all can run. Each one has had his chance to shine thanks to injuries. Coaches on the Steelers seem to feel each one can contribute and are making commitments to all three.

Why are they so important you ask? Well, the run defense for the first place Baltimore Ravens is porous and has a hard time containing any running back.

The Ravens are in 20th place in the league in rush defense. Over their past four games, Baltimore has allowed an average of over 184 yards rushing a game. Both the Cowboys and Chiefs ran for more than 200 yards against the Ravens in successive weeks, the first time the Baltimore franchise has allowed that.

Since the odds are that only the Steelers and Ravens will be fighting for the division title any advantage one has over the other will be exploited and the ground game for Pittsburgh could hurt the Ravens defense in the two games head to head the two teams still have to play.

With a strong running game, the Steelers will not put all the heat on Roethlisberger’s shoulders. This season he has not had to pass as much to win games and his sacks are down noticeably. The Steelers can also shorten the game against any opponent by running the ball the majority of the time. It also keeps their own defense sitting on the sideline rested.

Roethlisberger has said the team does not consist of selfish players therefore it is not important whether they run or pass, they will do what it takes to win.

Since the early part of the season the Steelers rushing offense has jumped from 31st to 21st, which is a noticeable improvement considering that at one time the team was using its third string running back in two consecutive games. In the past four games the Steelers have won, they ran for an average of 147 yards per game. In the other four games, in which they were 1-3, they averaged just 63 yards per game.

Besides two games with the Ravens, the Steelers will face teams whose combined records are just 15-35. The Ravens on the other hand, have opponents, not taking into consideration Pittsburgh, whose records are 24-26, including two teams that are leading their divisions the New York Giants and Denver Broncos.

Time will tell if all the statistics add up and the Steelers will be able to win the division. The only thing certain is the two games between the Steelers and Ravens will be strong-nosed, smash mouth football at its best.

  • 100%