The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing the role of the underdog in 2022. That’s probably how they like it. The team over at Bleacher Report took a poll predicting each division winner this season. In the tightly-contested AFC North, just two teams received votes. The Cincinnati Bengals came out on top with three while the Baltimore Ravens followed closely behind with two. The Bengals are looking to become the first repeat AFC North champs since the 2017-2018 Ravens.
Predictably the Bengals led the charge based on their skill players. Quarterback Joe Burrow and his awesome 2021 season after tearing his ACL as a rookie. Ja’Marr Chase bursting on scene and winning Rookie of the Year, not to mention quality receivers in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Their offensive line has also gotten better too, a focal point of the organization this past offseason.
Baltimore faltered down the stretch, collapsing under the weight of all their injuries. None were bigger than losing QB Lamar Jackson down the stretch, the Ravens losing every game he missed over the final month. But they were rocked by injuries in the backfield, at corner, and along the offensive line. They’ll enter 2022 in a much better place.
One voter, Gary Davenport, gave a quick rundown of the North.
“A healthy Ravens team will be a tough out, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never had a losing record under head coach Mike Tomlin, and the Cleveland Browns won’t be a pushover even with Jacoby Brissett under center. But the Bengals are loaded on offense, possess an underrated defense, and the team did a great job of addressing the offensive line in free agency.”
It’ll shape up to be one of the league’s most competitive divisions especially if Browns’ QB Deshaun Watson serves a shorter suspension that what once appeared. An initial ruling on him should come down within the next week.
Whoever does the best in their own division will very likely be crowned its champ. The last time the North’s winner didn’t also sport the best in-division record was 2018 when the Ravens went 3-3 against the North but still took home first place. That’s the only such example since 2014, meaning Pittsburgh better bring it early in the season (Week 1 at Cincinnati, Week 3 at Cleveland) and late in the year (Week 17 at Baltimore, Week 18 vs Cleveland) if they want to stand a chance.