After evaluating all four teams in both the AFC East and NFC East, it’s time to check out a division that featured three teams that won at least 11 games in 2020 – all of which wound up in the playoffs. But neither the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens nor Cleveland Browns were around come the AFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals have a promising young quarterback. So what are the major issues facing each team?
NOTE: 2020 win-loss records include playoffs
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5)
Will listen DB the final season for veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? He adjusted his contract so he could return to the Steelers – who still have cap issues. If Mike Tomlin’s team is to avoid another late-season meltdown, there has to be some sort of offensive balance. That could start with a new look at running back and revamping the offensive line. Pittsburgh finished dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2020.
Baltimore Ravens (12-6)
Talk about the opposite end of the spectrum? In each of the last two seasons, John Harbaugh’s club led the league in rushing. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the first player in his position to run for at least 1,000 yards in a season twice. But the Ravens have had their issues in the playoffs three straight years. Don Martindale’s aggressive defense could still use some more help up front in terms of a more consistent pass rush.
Cleveland Browns (12-6)
The franchise made its first playoff appearance since 2002 and the Browns won a playoff game for the first time since 1994. Quarterback Baker Mayfield keyed a balanced attack and 2020 NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski utilized the league’s third-ranked ground attack. But the club did allow 419 points (up from 393 in ’19) and 31 scoring passes. Cleveland ranked 22nd in pass defense and needs more help in the secondary.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t last the entire season but showed plenty of promise when he was available. Zac Taylor’s team doubled its win total from 2019 (2-14) and a late-season upset of the Steelers was impressive. Cincinnati’s run defense has been an issue for quite some time – ranking 29th in the NFL this past season. But keeping Burrow is of vital importance and the team’s offensive line still needs work.