Reasons the Pittsburgh Steelers Are the New AFC North Favorites
After playing their most dominant game of the season, beating the Washington Redskins 27-12, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to build on their best win streak of the season as they prepare for another tough NFC East matchup next week against the Giants.
The Ravens started the season as heavy favorites to win the North, but injuries have derailed their dominance, and all their games have been decided by 3 points or less, hardly convincing wins to make the claim that they are the jewel of the AFC.
With New York being their greatest test of the season next week, the Steelers have five remaining games against the AFC North, and everyone is starting to believe that they can run the table on their rivals.
5. Growing Pains Becoming a Thing of the Past
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As evidenced by Jonathan Dwyer's two consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games; Todd Haley's play book of pushing an aggressive ground game while simultaneously using Big Ben and his weapons to the best of their potential is finally starting to come together.
After putting up 122 yards against AFC North Rival Cincinnati, Dwyer had himself another fine day when he rushed for 107 yards against Washington, and finished the game with a touchdown reception.
The compact running back who has drawn modest comparisons to Jerome Bettis looks to be the Steelers' best option for now and the future, with former first round pick Rashard Mendenhall unable to stay healthy.
Not only has the running game finally gained momentum, Ben Roesthlisberger is enjoying one of his best years, sitting at fourth in the league with a 101.4 Quarterback Rating.
Both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are eying to hit the 500 receiving yard mark next week as Brown sits at 480 and Wallace at 459.
4. Despite New Ownership, Cleveland Is Still a Long Ways Away from Winning
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The pieces on offense might be there, but the wins aren't.
Cleveland holds one of the worst records in the league at 2-5 and it doesn't seem like they'll be able to sustain a solid win streak anytime soon.
The Browns haven't been a threat to beat the Steelers in years, and this season will be no different.
3. Steelers More Prepared to Deal with Adversity Than Anyone Else in the AFC
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Has anyone else in the NFL had to deal with injury problems quite like what the Steelers have gone through in the early part of the season?
While former Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu continues to sit out games, the other side of the ball isn't much better off as Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall continue to miss time.
After stud guard prospect David DeCastro went down with a season-ending injury before the season even started, nearly every Steelers' offensive lineman has spent time out of the lineup. From Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to promising young second year starter Marcus Gilbert, the offensive line has been trying to deal with injuries to everyone.
While James Harrison may still not be 100 percent, Pittsburgh is just happy to have his pass rushing skills on the field. What they are not pleased to see is Ryan Clark going down with an injury late in the Washington game. Pittsburgh could be without both their starting safeties against the Giants next week.
2. Cincinnati Has Reverted to Their Old Ways
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After starting the season 3-1, the Bengals looked like they were going to go tit for tat with the Baltimore Ravens to see who could win the AFC North crown.
Looking back on that record before the disheartening loss to Miami we should have realized the Bengals had just racked up three very easy wins.
After being thrashed by the Ravens in their season opener the Bengals went on to beat Cleveland, Washington, and Jacksonville before falling on their faces and losing three straight to the then lowly Miami Dolphins, the Browns and Steelers.
1. The Baltimore Ravens Injury Woes Are Of Major Concern
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While their upcoming two games against the Browns and Raiders might not be considered as challenging as other teams, the Ravens are in a bad place right now where every win they can manage is that much more important, because they will be without Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb for the rest of the year.
With their bye week concluded, the Ravens have burned their chance to get their team healthy and re-energized.