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NFL preview 2018: AFC North outlook

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown before a preseason

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown before a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 30, 2018. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

COACH: Mike Tomlin, 11th season (94-66, .588)

LAST SEASON: 13-3, 1st place

PLAYOFFS: lost to Jacksonville, 45-42, in divisional round.

OUTLOOK: Ben Roethlisberger returns for a 15th season, which means you can expect the Steelers’ offense to be among the NFL’s best. Roethlisberger still has a terrific arm and good mobility, and can read defenses as well as anyone. Antonio Brown returns as the Steelers’ best receiving threat. Uncertainty continues to cloud Le’Veon Bell’s situation; he has held out a second straight year in a contract dispute. Pittsburgh’s defense remains stout, although the secondary has been a concern. This is still the most well-rounded team in the division and one of the few legitimate threats to the Patriots’ reign.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

COACH: John Harbaugh, 3rd season (16-16, .500)

LAST SEASON: 6-10, 3rd place

OUTLOOK: Joe Flacco comes off one of his weakest seasons, prompting the Ravens to consider his heir apparent by drafting Lamar Jackson in the first round. Flacco has taken Jackson’s presence as a challenge and vows to return to the form that helped him become a Super Bowl MVP. The Ravens acquired former Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree to add some explosiveness in the passing game. Running back depth continues to be an issue, as does depth on defense. Terrell Suggs remains the team’s top pass-rushing threat. Baltimore should be improved from last year, but this is still not close to being an elite team.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

COACH: Marvin Lewis, 16th season (123-112-3, .523)

LAST SEASON: 7-9, 3rd place

OUTLOOK: Marvin Lewis enters his 16th season as the Bengals’ head coach, but he still has no playoff wins. There was talk of retirement after last season, but he returns in 2018 on a two-year deal. Andy Dalton continues as the quarterback, warts and all. He can be an efficient quarterback at times, but he still doesn’t have consistent big-play capability. A.J. Green is still one of the league’s top receivers, and the Bengals hope Joe Mixon can flourish in Year 2. Defense remains solid, especially with defensive tackle Geno Atkins at the top of his game.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

COACH: Hue Jackson, 3rd season (1-31, .031)

LAST SEASON: 0-16, 4th place

OUTLOOK: The Browns tabbed Baker Mayfield as their quarterback of the future by selecting the former Oklahoma star No. 1 overall, but for now, this is Tyrod Taylor’s team. The former Bills quarterback has earned the trust of coach Hue Jackson, so Mayfield will have to wait for his chance. There is a fair amount of optimism about the Browns, although that flies in the face of the team’s 1-31 record over the past two seasons. Second-year defensive end Myles Garrett is poised for a big year, and the Browns hope first-round cornerback Denzel Ward can be the answer at a chronically weak position.

New York Sports

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