Opinion: Steelers are back in the hunt for AFC North title


Jack Kurzenknabe via Flickr, cc

Pittsburgh Steelers James Conner – Cincinnati Bengals

Dylan Shields, Sports Writer

In the NFL, the AFC North division was once named, “The Toughest Division in Football.”  It has weakened some over the years, though, like the Ravens winning the division last year with only 10 wins.

The division has been up and down so far this year.

To start, the leaders right now, the Browns, are 2-2.  They have impressive wins against the Ravens and Jets, but succumbed to the Titans and Rams.  There are points when Baker Mayfield, the quarterback, looks as if he will lead his team.  At other points, he forces way too many throws and has already thrown six interceptions this year.

Secondly, the Ravens are right behind the Browns with a 2-2 record.  They beat two tanking teams in the Dolphins and Cardinals, but eventually lost to two strong teams in the Browns and Chiefs.  Now, their QB Lamar Jackson looks like the next big thing.  He evades sacks and extends the play in a way we haven’t seen since Michael Vick’s hay day.  But there’s one problem for them, their defense.  They gave up 33 points to the Chiefs, and 40 to the Browns, who couldn’t even score over 30 in their first three games.

I won’t spend time on the Bengals.  They are tanking, and they are tanking badly.  Andy Dalton looks weak, the offensive line looks even weaker, and their defense is abysmal.  And after last night’s 27-3 loss, they have rebuilding to do.

Now, let’s get to my team, the Steelers.  They have had a roller-coaster season, and it’s only Week 5.  First, they got crushed by Tom Brady and the Patriots.  Next, Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury, and they lost to Seattle.  However, their backup QB, Mason Rudolph showed flashes of promise in that game.

In his first start, he only threw for 174 yards, but he threw two touchdowns.  The Steelers defense forced five turnovers, and they still lost to the 49ers.

But finally, on Monday night, Rudolph looked calmer in the pocket, throwing for over 300 yards and two TDs in a 27-3 rout of the Bengals.

He looked more comfortable in the pocket, and only had a few error throws.  He didn’t make spectacular plays, but he did his job to give his team the win.  He seemed to throw a lot to James Conner, who also had his first solid game this year.

In my opinion, after last night, the Steelers put themselves right back in the division.  Yes, they beat the Bengals who still haven’t won a game.  However, the Bengals looked impressive against teams like Seattle and Buffalo, almost beating both teams.

But the main reason why the Steelers are back is because of the defense.  Boy have they turned the table.  Against the 49ers, they forced five turnovers, including four fumbles.  Then on Monday, they forced two, and held Andy Dalton to less than 200 yards passing.  They look elite this year with the addition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

All in all, next week’s game for the Steelers is a crucial one against the Ravens.  If they can win plus a Brown’s loss, they will be leading the division.  All eyes are on Mike Tomlin’s team Sunday, as they are back in playoff contention.

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