So let's put the whole picture together. How do the full defenses stack up against each other?
First, I think that all four defenses have a lot of talent. Cleveland gets overshadowed because of the division's heavyweights (Pittsburgh and Baltimore), but the Browns defense is the only thing that keeps them in several games each season. If they had some semblance of an offense, they could actually contend with the other three teams.
The Bengals are the most interesting unit in the division because they have come so far but still have so much growing to do. They could really have a big season and coordinator Mike Zimmer is a hot head coaching candidate and should be the next AFC North assistant to land a head coaching gig.
Overall, the defenses still come down to Pittsburgh or Baltimore for the top spot. These teams and units duke it out in the rankings and on the field every season.
If the Steelers can get through the season healthy, they should be the top defense in the NFL. A lot will depend on how they perform up the middle at nose tackle and inside linebacker.
The Ravens should, as long as Ray Lewis continues to hog the fountain of youth and Paul Kruger makes everyone forget about Terrell Suggs, be no less than 1a in the NFL. They are that good and that secondary is top five in the conference.
The Bengals will push for second, but I don't think they're there yet unless they can decrease the touchdowns allowed. The Browns will push them and if Joe Haden develops more and their front seven continues to grow, might just be the third best unit here. It's telling that the Browns finished in the top ten in several defensive categories last year.
Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland