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The old AFC Central was known as a group of teams that prided themselves on the defensive side of the ball. Some of the best defenses ever in the history of the NFL have come from it.
The Steelers have had been in the top 10 defenses all decade, including numerous times in the top spot, the Ravens are right with them. Many people say, me included, that the reason for the success of the Bengals this year was due to the improved defensive play.
The purpose of this article is not to rate which team is better, but it is to compare each team at each position. For each position, each team will be graded one to four. Four points will be given to each team that finishes last, while one point will be given to each team that finished first. Like in Golf, the lowest score wins!
Between the 3-4 and the 4-3, it is hard to compare with teams running different schemes. This is my opinion as to how the POSITION helps the teams, instead of the individual players.
The biggest issue with the Steelers defensive line is age, but with an infusion of youth from the 2009 NFL Draft, the Steelers have addressed that situation going forward. With Aaron Smith returning and Casey Hampton clogging the middle of the line, first round pick Ziggy Hood fits into the rotation to solidify the unit.
2 - Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defensive line has done an amazing job covering up for injuries and deficiencies of the secondary. They do not give the opposition time to throw the ball, and are one of the hardest units in the NFL to run on. Haloti Ngata is one of the toughest players in the NFL.
3 - Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are working their way up the list, with the potential to climb the list next year. Antwan Odom, Robert Gaithers and Domata Peko could become one of the best lines in the NFL under newly re-signed Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer.
1 - Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have a long and storied history of having the best line backing corp in the NFL. In 2008, James Harrison won the Defensive POY. LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, and James Farrior round out the group, that is one of the most dominant ones in football.
2 - Baltimore Ravens. Ray Lewis is one of the best ILB's to ever play the game. With Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Brendon Ayanbadejo, they are a close second to the Steelers.
3 - Cincinnati Bengals. Like with the defensive linemen, the Bengals can climb the list next year. Rey Maualuga was a steal in the second round of the draft last year, and Keith Rivers, also from USC could become one of the best in the NFL. The Bengals have a great young core for their defense moving forward.
4 - Cleveland Browns. In order for the Browns to be successful, they are going to have to take steps at improving their team.
1 - Cincinnati Bengals. Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall are becoming shut down corners. They have played the best as any Bengals corners as far back as I can remember.
2 - Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens secondary would have been outstanding had they not had the injuries they did this year. Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth both played outstanding until injuries ended their season early. Rookie Lardarious Webb was developing into a solid player, until injury cut his season as well.
The biggest weakness of the Ravens this year was their secondary, and it could become a strength next year.
3 - Pittsburgh Steelers. Ike Taylor can still shut down the top receiver on the opposition, but the struggles come when the opposition has a second receiver to throw to. The Steelers drafted two corners in last years draft, Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis, who the Steelers are hoping can fill the second and nickel corner positions in 2010.
4 - Cleveland Browns. This could be the weakest area for the weak Browns defense.
1 - Pittsburgh Steelers. Troy Polamalu is the best safety in the game (Ravens fans, keep reading before you send the hate mail). He completely changes the complexity of the Steelers defense. Ryan Clark is one of the hardest hitters in the NFL, and if he is re-signed, this unit will be the best hands down.
2 - Cincinnati Bengals. Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe are a perfect compliment to the excellent corners the Bengals have. They may not get the picks that the Steelers and Ravens get from their safeties, but they help in support as much as you could ask.
3 - Baltimore Ravens. Ed Reed is one of the best to ever play the game. According to Reed, he is only 50/50 about playing again, and is considering retirement. If the Ravens lose Reed, they could drop to the bottom of the list. Dawan Landry is good, but without Reed playing next to him, he may become less than average.
4 - Cleveland Browns. At the bottom of the list in every defensive category. This team needs an over haul on defense to become competitive in the AFC North.
Pittsburgh Steelers - 6
Baltimore Ravens - 9
Cincinnati Bengals - 9
Cleveland Browns - 16
Over All Rankings
Pittsburgh Steelers - 15
Baltimore Ravens - 19
Cincinnati Bengals - 22
Cleveland Browns - 34
If you disagree with me, change my mind in the comments. If you give a good enough argument, I reserve the right to change the rankings.