The Pittsburgh Steelers represented the AFC in the Super Bowl, winning their third Lombardi Trophy in the last six years. Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, they were not able to upend the Green Bay Packers to bring home Lombardi Trophy No. 7.
They do return the core of their team, with at least 21 of a possible 22 starters returning in 2011.
The Baltimore Ravens were only a tiebreaker away from winning the AFC North Championship and forcing the Steelers to be the road team in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Ravens, one of their losses came to the Cincinnati Bengals, and because of that, the Ravens were unable to host a home playoff game.
Though, the Ravens do seem to be almost a mirror image of the Steelers, with two of the finest defenses in the NFL, the Ravens have Joe Flacco, who is no Ben Roethlisberger. Flacco has not defeated Big Ben in his professional career, and neither has Coach Harbaugh.
The Steelers and the Ravens look to dominate the North once again, with the Bengals seeming to take more steps backwards than a cornerback covering Larry Fitzgerald.
The Browns have made improvements and look to make more once free-agency starts. Unfortunately for the folks in Cleveland, it is not going to be enough for the Browns to seriously contend for anything better than third in the North.
The Steelers will win the AFC North again in 2012 and will hold the top seed in the AFC.
The Ravens will once again come up shy, finishing the season only one game behind the Steelers. The good news is, the Ravens will have the second best record in the AFC; the bad news is, they are going to finish the season as the No. 5 seed and have to go on the road for the playoffs once again.
The Browns are going to take some steps, but with a new coaching staff, a new defensive philosophy and still far from being competitive against either the Ravens or Steelers, the Browns will finish a couple games below .500 again this year.
The Bengals, with a rookie QB, and the headaches and growing pains they are going to go through in 2011-2012, could be picking first in the NFL draft come 2012.