Will the Steelers keep their momentum and repeat as division champs in 2018? Our roundtable reporters give their picks for who will win the division and how many playoff teams will emerge from the AFC North.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Steelers. Pittsburgh is the unquestioned favorite for the AFC North division title after winning the past two. The Steelers essentially return the same team that has won 11 of 12 AFC North games in 2016 and 2017. The Ravens have a shot at being the second playoff team in the division after adding some new blood to a sputtering passing attack, but Baltimore has come up short the past two seasons. It’s difficult to give a vote of confidence to the Ravens until they return to the postseason for the first time since 2014. Baltimore looks like a 9-7 team, and the Ravens will have increased competition for those wild-card spots with the returns of Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson. The Bengals will hover just below .500 for the third season in a row, and the Browns could make a big jump to five wins.
Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: Steelers. Don’t count out at least one other team sneaking into the playoffs if the Bengals or Ravens take a step forward this year. Ben Roethlisberger had some inconsistent play last year, and he's going to go on the decline eventually. However, the Steelers should be able to get at least another good year out of him, especially with offensive weapons Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell (provided his contract situation gets sorted out) still in their prime. They’ll also have to find a replacement for linebacker Ryan Shazier, which is a tall task, and still a question mark. That will all level the playing field a lot, and it’s hard to imagine the Steelers will go 13-3 again this season. But the Steelers still have a lot of talent, and it’s hard not to make them the favorite to win the title for the third season in a row.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Steelers. Pittsburgh wins the division and is the only playoff team. It’s hard to see Baltimore and Cincinnati as improving teams, and though the Browns will be better -- a team that goes winless has nowhere to go but up -- they won’t push to make the playoffs. This division belongs to Pittsburgh.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Steelers. Pittsburgh will win the division for the fourth time in five years, while the Ravens will join them in the playoffs. Baltimore has replenished its creaky roster to challenge Pittsburgh in the North, but its receiving corps was so bad that three free-agent additions could start. That’s hardly a recipe for a successful passing game. Pittsburgh can still outscore most of its opponents, rolls out an improved secondary and has 45 regular-season wins in the past four seasons. The Bengals’ playoff window with Andy Dalton appears to be closing, and even the most ardent Browns supporters aren’t expecting postseason football. That Week 9 Steelers-Ravens street fight in Baltimore should determine the divisional trajectory.