2021 South Side Questions: Who Will Sit Atop AFC North Standings By Day’s End?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Who will be in first place in the AFC North by the end of the day?

The AFC North has only played one game intradivisionally so far this season, and the Steelers came out on the wrong end of that one, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, how are currently 4-2. The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1 and have the best record in the conference, but a win on the road in Baltimore would give the Bengals the head-to-head tiebreaker, not to mention a 2-0 divisional record.

Cincinnati is one of the most improved teams this season compared to last, with 2020 first overall pick quarterback Joe Burrow looking more and more to start looking like it. He’s been helped by having his favorite college target added, fifth overall pick wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who already has more than 500 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and has quickly established himself as a top deep threat.

The Bengals are just outside of the top 10 in points for and in the top five in points allowed. Their offensive line has improved, and they’ve boosted their defense, which now includes Mike Hilton, of course, among several other free agents.

The Ravens, of course, have a very talented team as well, even in spite of their numerous, numerous injuries. They’ve found ways to plug along and make things happen. Sure they’ve gotten a couple of breaks, but any winning team will have had them.

The bottom line is that the Ravens and the Bengals are squaring off today, and the winner will be in control of the AFC North. Now, there’s still lots and lots of football to play, but there’s never a bad time to bead in the lead, as long as it’s not the only time.

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