Steelers Strong Favorites To Win AFC North, But Are Bengals Far Behind?

Five of the Steelers defenders that will either start or play big roles in 2012 are 32 or older. With an already leaky secondary, the Steelers didn't do themselves any favors waiting until the 246th-overall pick in the seventh round to select their only defensive back of the draft (Terrence Frederick).

Another problem is their offensive coordinator of five years (Bruce Arians) left the team to run the Colts offense.Todd Haley fills his position, coming over from Kansas City, where he was their head coach for the last three seasons.

Arians helped coordinate a Steelers offense that ranked in the 94th percentile in total yardage differential during his time in Pittsburgh. Haley led the Chiefs to a combined record of 19-26 from 2009-11.

Sure, it's not exactly comparing apples to apples, but you can see there is a difference in coaching ability. Arians is making a lateral move where he will get to coach Andrew Luck. Haley is getting a demotion to a team that expects to win now. If you've ever seen Haley on the sideline, you know things don't always seem to be stable.

The biggest question for the Steelers is the health of Rashard Mendenhall. On January 1, Mendenhall tore his right ACL in the Pittsburgh's final game of the regular season at Cleveland. No decision has been made yet in terms of how long he will be out, but deactivating Mendenhall for the 2012 season looks to be more of a certainty than not.

Mendenhall's likely replacements, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, have combined to rush for 877 yards in their careers. Mendenhall rushed for 928 yards in last year alone (15 games).

Considering how the Steelers figure to have a one-dimensional offense ran by a brand new offensive coordinator, the Ravens seem to have the (slight) upper hand going into 2012.

In a series that's been so very close over the years, that may be all it takes.

Source : http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1227616-5-reasons-to-believe-the-baltimore-ravens-are-afc-north-champions-in-2012

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