Power Ranking the AFC North Quarterbacks
The AFC North is widely considered the most hard-nosed, run-oriented division in the NFL.
But as NFL offenses have moved towards more pass-happy offenses, so have the four teams in the AFC North; none more so than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have drafted receivers such as Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace to spread out the team's offenses and give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger more options.
The other three teams in the division are slowly but surely following the Steelers' blueprint to throw the ball more, starting at the quarterback position.
To further break down each AFC North starting quarterback, here's a list of the four top quarterbacks in the division.
4. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns drafted quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft with the hopes of finding their next franchise quarterback. But, Weeden entered minicamp tied with quarterback Colt McCoy in the race to win the team's starting quarterback job.
Once training camp began, however, Weeden won the job and has already been announced the starter for Cleveland's first regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In his NFL debut on Friday night against the Detroit Lions, Weeden threw for 62 yards on nine attempts with one interception. Friday's performance is a relatively small body of work to dissect, but Weeden did show that he will likely experience some growing pains this season.
Down the road, Weeden could turn out to be a solid NFL quarterback. Since he hasn't played an NFL regular season game yet, it's hard to put him anywhere but fourth in the rankings.
3. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
In 2011, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton greatly exceeded expectations for the Cincinnati Bengals. After being selected 35th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, it wasn't even guaranteed that Dalton would start in his rookie season.
Dalton eventually won the starting job and had a successful rookie campaign. He isn't the most athletic quarterback in the division, nor does he have the strongest arm. But Dalton was still able to throw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011.
His impressive rookie performance helped propel the Bengals to the playoffs, where they lost to the Houston Texans 31-10 in the Wild Card Round.
It will be interesting to see if Dalton can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and take the Bengals to the next level this season.
2. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Throughout his career, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been labeled as a game manager. However, that label is far from the truth. Flacco may have been a game manager in his 2008 rookie campaign, but ever since then he has emerged as a top-15 passer in the NFL.
Not only has Flacco led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his four NFL seasons, but he has also posted some impressive statistics. In each of the past three seasons, Flacco has thrown for at least 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns. He's also thrown no more than 12 interceptions in a season since his rookie year.
While he isn't the best quarterback in the AFC North right now, he is slowly approaching that title. Don't be surprised if by the 2014 season, Flacco is considered the top quarterback in the division.
1. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ever since he entered the NFL in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger has been the best quarterback in the AFC North.
Not only does he have two Super Bowl wins under his belt, he consistently posts passing stats that rank near the top in the NFL. Playing in 15 games in 2011, Roethlisberger threw for 4,077 yards and 21 touchdowns.
His best statistical season came in 2009 when he threw for 4,328 yards and 26 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy and play all 16 games this season (something he hasn't done since 2008), Roethlisberger could lead the Steelers back to the Super Bowl this season.