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Special Edition: NFL Preview: AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers Projected: 12-4
Pittsburgh finally had somewhat of a regular off season this year. No problems with Ben Roethlisberger and no big signings. Roethlisberger is back and had a productive season even though he missed the first four games. The Steelers figured out that they can win without him though. The backfield is underrated led by Rashard Mendenhall. He has good speed and can get powerful when needed. The wide receiver core is a question. Hines Ward is still old but is still psychical and smart. He might have been already replaced as the team's top option by Mike Wallace. Heath Miller is also a serious target and is a decent blocker. The defensive line isn't great but the linebackers are stacked. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Larry Foote are the stars in the middle. The secondary is okay as the Steelers resigned Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu is back and is the best safety in the league.
2. Baltimore Ravens Projected: 10-6
Baltimore has an interesting mix of young stars and seasoned veterans. Joe Flacco still isn't an elite quarterback but he'll be good enough for the Ravens. Ray Rice has become one of the best backs in the NFL. The team signed Ricky Williams as an interesting change of pace back. Baltimore cut Derrick Mason but still has Anquan Boldin and traded for former Bill Lee Evans. Young tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are talented. The offensive line is headed by Michael Oher and Ben Grubbs. The defense is still dangerous even without Kelly Gregg up the middle. Huge Haloti Ngata is intimidating on the end and Ray Lewis is still good at the linebacker position. Lewis has lost some speed and won't make the tackles he used to but he can be a mentor to some younger players. Terrell Suggs and Sergio Kindle lead the rest of the linebacker unit. The secondary was a question last year but should improve with rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and Ed Reed and Domoniquue Foxworth fully healthy.
3. Cleveland Browns Projected: 5-11
The Browns feel pretty good about the 2011 season after a 5-11 mark in 2010 in which they beat some strong opponents. Colt McCoy is now for sure the team's starter with Jake Delhomme out. He won't change games just yet but has pinpoint accuracy. The ground game was the preferred mean of gaining yards for the Browns in '10. Peyton Hillis had a strong year and instantly became the face of the franchise. Rookie Owen Marecic is interesting at fullback. The receiving core still isn't great but is getting better. Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiske and tight ends Ben Watson and Alex Smith are the top options. Tackle Joe Thomas leads the line. The defense is very weak on the line but the rest if okay. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson makes plays and the secondary is led by Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden.
4. Cincinnati Bengals Projected: 2-14
The Bengals horrible 2010 was followed up by a bad offseason leaving the team at the bottom slot in the North. Carson Palmer retired because he wasn't traded leaving the quarterback position uncertain. Andy Dalton was drafted in the second round and might get the start. The Bengals signed Bruce Gradkowski and he has experience form Oakland and Tampa Bay. Cedric Benson was resigned this offseason and will get many carries. The wide outs aren't great now since Chad Ochocinco was traded to New England. A.J. Green was drafted and the rest of the unit has untested players like Jordan Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby and Jerome Simpson. The defense is now looking better than the offense something not normal with the Bengals. Ends Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers and tackle Domata Peko are respectable. The linebacker core is headed by Keith Rivers, Rey Maulaluga and Manny Lawson all young. The secondary lost Jonathan Joseph but still keeps Leon Hall luckily. Adam Jones got into more trouble this offseason and won't even give the Bengals that much on the field.

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