With the NFL Preseason starting to kick into action, I will preview one of the NFL’s most rivalry-packed divisions.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Arguably one of the best offences in the NFL, the Steelers can score 30-plus points every game.

With names like Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster, this side has enough talent to fill a month worth of highlight reels.

All eyes this off-season have been on Running Back Le’Veon Bell who will again be franchise tagged by the Steelers, as they failed to come to an agreement on a new contract.

There have been rumours he would sit out the entire season if they failed to offer him a decent contract. Instead, Bell has stated on twitter that he will have his ‘greatest season ever’.

Crucial player
‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger. He has only played a full 16-game season, three times in his 14-year career. He is one solid hit away from a career-ending injury.

The window for him to win another championship ring is closing quickly so this needs to be his year.

This offence is talented, but it will all fall apart with a new quarterback behind centre.

Keep an eye on
With a side so full of offensive talent, it’s hard to find just one player. Look for tight end Vance McDonald to have a busy season.

He shone in the back half of last season and is expected to take more reps away from fellow tight end Jesse James.

Personnel changes
The Steelers have shuffled some of their coaching staff around for the 2018 season. Notably, long-serving offensive coordinator Todd Haley is gone and will be replaced by Randy Fichtner.

What Fichtner brings will remain to be seen.

I suggest that Big Ben will be acting as offensive coordinator for much of the season. Look for a lot of ‘no-huddle’ offence to exploit defences with the unguardable Antonio Brown and seemingly indefensible Le’Veon Bell.

Predicted finish
14-2 – Division champions.

They will leak a lot of points, but they are too strong on offence to not win the division. How far that takes them into the playoffs, only time will tell.

Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback Joe Flacco will take the reins for his tenth season in Baltimore.

However, he will be watched closely by first-round draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens have a solid defensive line and will stop most teams this year from running through them. After a busy offseason, their wideouts can challenge the best wide receivers in the game.

Look for linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosely to guide this team around the park.

The problem for them lies in distributing offensive targets. Newly recruited wide receiver Michael Crabtree will be a marked man in 2018 and will be guarded accordingly.

On the other side, we see Willie Snead, who fell out of favour with New Orleans last season and will look to rekindle his form with the Ravens.

As a run option, they have Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon, and Alex Collins. None of which will strike fear in opposition defences.

Scoring points could be a problem for them in 2018. But they should hold their own to win more games than they lose.

Crucial player
Joe Flacco, for now. Everything we are hearing out of Baltimore is, he is their main man. But a few losses and the chorus will ring out for Lamar Jackson to take over.

Keep an eye on
The newly acquired Michael Crabtree. He moved from the Oakland Raiders in the off-season and will be a heavy target for Joe Flacco. Look for him to make a big impact on his new team.

Personnel changes
Plenty of new targets for Flacco to aim at will make for an interesting year for Ravens fans.

Predicted finish

Not quite good enough for a wildcard berth this year, but they are building.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t going to break any records this season, but he will put up enough of a show for them to win a few games. The Bengals seem to be leaning towards a run-first offence in 2018.

A revamped offensive line means second-year running back Joe Mixon should receive a lot more football. If this new line holds up well, they will see plenty or running yards from Mixon and co.

On the flip side, it means fewer touches for wide receiver A.J. Green.

On the defensive side of the field, the Bengals finished in the bottom half of every stat in 2017. Not a lot will change in 2018.

Their best defensive player, Vontaze Burfict, has lost his appeal against a performance-enhancing drugs suspension and will miss the first four games.

This will only add to the pain for Bengals fans in the opening month of regular season football. Not only is Burfict a quality player, he is a leader. They lacked passion and consistency in 2017 without him.

Crucial player(s)
The whole offensive line. If they can gel and work as a unit, they can trouble a lot of defences this season.

This is a big ask for a group of guys who don’t know each other’s game.

Both rookies, centre Billy Price centre and left tackle Cordy Glenn will be working overtime to ensure their new side can function as a single unit.

Keep an eye on
The controversial Joe Mixon. He was great in his first season and will look for more touches in 2018 to add to his already glowing career.

Personnel changes
There are too many to name. The offensive line will be where they win or lose games.

American football generic

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Predicted finish
6-10, third in the division.
It will be another tough year for Bengals fans. The good news is they are on the improve and will push for a playoff spot in a few years.

Cleveland Browns

After winning only one game in the previous two seasons, you could forgive the Browns’ faithful for being pessimistic at their prospects for 2018.

Luckily for them though, they are in for a treat this season. They have drafted and recruited well, therefore they won’t be the pushovers they usually are.

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor looks to be getting the starting role from number one draft pick Baker Mayfield, but the fun doesn’t stop there for the Browns.

They used their fourth overall pick to take Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, who will be the star on the defensive side of the ball alongside Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers.

Super Bowl winning linebacker Mychal Kendricks will add plenty of experience to a big defensive pack.

They picked up some quality players on the offensive side of the ball too, with wide receiver Jarvis Landry coming over from the Dolphins and running back Carlos Hyde from the 49ers.

It looks like Hyde will share the RB duties with second-round draft pick Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson.

Crucial player
Sophomore tight end David Njoku. After a solid first year in the game, he will look to improve on his 32 receptions for 386 yards for season two.

Njoku will be key to the Browns offensive options. Look for a big year from him.

Keep an eye on
Wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Gordon has never been far from controversy since he entered the league in 2012.

He has been suspended multiple times for his use of performance-enhancing drugs and is not currently attending Browns training camp due to personal issues.

It remains to be seen if he is to play in 2018. If he stays clean, sober and happy, Gordon can wreak havoc on defences all season long.

Personnel changes
Head coach Hue Jackson has made plenty of changes across the coaching staff. The most notable is Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley, formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Haley brings with him more than 20 years’ experience in the role, with some of the best players in the game. He will add some much-needed spice to the Browns offensive line.

Predicted finish

The Browns are building towards a better future. They will win more games this season than the previous few, but will still be short of playoff football.

They are heading in the right direction.

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The Crowd Says (5)

  • August 11th 2018 @ 8:48am
    R2k said | August 11th 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

    Pittsburgh – they have one of the best offences in the league, an average enough defence that should hold them in games, but unfortunately their culture is wonderfully terrible. The off-field dramas, the arrogance and the egos will mean this team will probably repeat last years playoffs one and done. Big Ben is just another year older and it will probably be a matter of weeks before the usual Bell and Brown issues start.

    Baltimore – after the absolutely crazy loss to the bengals in week 17 when playoffs were on the line (and the bengals had a 4th and 12, and we’re 3 points down, and were playing for pride… and the bills) I expect similar this year. The division remains weak but unless Jackson proves to be the ultrastar Vick without the issues that the hype train talks him up to be I don’t see them doing a heck of a lot better than last year. Maybe scrape into the playoffs.

    Cincinnati – finally attempted to fix their O-line but their team remains full of holes. When their players are in form they are a playoff team but that didn’t happen last season – best of luck jelling again. You don’t want the indignity of being worse than the browns!

    Cleveland – well the only way is up. A year spent praying that Mayfield isn’t another Manziel model cocky son of a qb will be fun to watch. What a shame it will be without Joe Thomas. Will they do less then 6 wins? Probably but anything is better than Jackson going 0-16 again. Prove me wrong factory of sadness!

  • August 11th 2018 @ 12:01pm
    no one in particular said | August 11th 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

    “After a busy offseason, their wideouts can challenge the best wide receivers in the game”
    “The problem for them lies in offensive targets. ”


    And Josh Gordon was not suspended for PED’s, but for multiple failed marijuana tests

    • Roar Guru

      August 15th 2018 @ 8:19pm
      Christopher Spinks said | August 15th 2018 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

      I had done so much research that week, I got Gordon’s failed weed test mixed up with PEDs from someone else. I’ll triple check my facts from now on.
      Thanks for the correction.

  • August 16th 2018 @ 8:56am
    Kangas said | August 16th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

    Good summary

    I always love this division

  • August 16th 2018 @ 5:47pm
    Aem said | August 16th 2018 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

    I’d go a little higher on the Browns – the QB switch (forgetting Mayfield, I think he’s going to be very good but won’t play much if at all) is probably worth 6 wins all by itself – then you’ve got all the other talent they’ve brought in. I mean… the Browns had 2 OT losses, plus another 4 single-score margins last year. And that with a QB that was historically bad. Just going to the guy who won’t turn it over is going to give them those wins, surely. 7-9, 8-8 maybe for me.

    Pittsburgh… hmmm. Great offense, but 14 wins just seems too high for a team that looks like it’s REALLY going to struggle on defense… and one that has a first place schedule giving them KC’s fun new vertical offense (my god that game is going to be sooooome shoot-out), the Falcons, Chargers, Jaguars, Pats and Saints to deal with in 2018. That’s a murderers’ row (or as close as you can get from an AFC North schedule) right there.

    Loved Baltimore’s draft (what a parting gift from Ozzie), Flacco has been trash for years now though. Either Lamar needs to take that spot, or Flacco needs to step up because they have the team around him right now to make a big push. I think you’re on the money with their win prediction.

    Bengals… meh. Bad o-line (Glenn – not a rookie 😛 – and Price should help there… but they probably needed 3-4 new starters, rather than just 2), a QB that can’t negate that issue and needs weapons… of which he’s got 1.5 (Green and Eifert… if he’s fit). Their secondary & pass rush is decent though. Decent but not overly good roster, shouldn’t challenge. The 6 wins you’ve got here seems about right to me.

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