2017 AFC North Breakdown by Position: The Offense

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CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 7: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 7, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 42-21. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

During the month of August, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position breakdown of the AFC North offenses. The breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.

2017 AFC North Breakdown by Position: The Offense

Quarterback

The Best: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Rest: Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns

Since coming into the league in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger has been the AFC North’s best quarterback. Really, it’s not even close. With two Super Bowls, five Pro Bowl selections, and an Offensive Rookie of the Year award, “Big Ben” has had a big impact on the NFL. In addition to that, Roethlisberger’s weapons are definitely there to help him. But, more on that later. Even at age 35, Roethlisberger is lighting up the league. Much to the relief of the other three AFC North teams, Big Ben could be retiring soon. However, if he can keep up his good work, he might not be done just yet.

Outside of Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton is the best quarterback in the division. Now, Joe Flacco would normally be taking this spot. He’s a good signal-caller in his own right. But as of right now, he’s injured, and who knows how productive he’ll be when he comes back? That, my friends, is why Dalton takes the second-place honors this year. Not only that, but he has marginally better weapons than Flacco. By pure quarterbacking measures, Flacco only holds the deep ball over Dalton’s head.

Moving on to the Browns, their quarterback room is by far the worst in the division. But between Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer, one of those guys has to become a starter, right?

Running Back

The Best: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Rest: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens

Bottom line: Le’Veon Bell is one of, if not the best running back in the league. The list is likely him, Arizona’s David Johnson, and then everybody else. One of Ben Roethlisberger’s best options, Bell will be looking to get a huge paycheck next year. Whether or not the Steelers want to give that paycheck to him is a different story, so he might be on the move after this season. Nevertheless, Bell’s running capabilities are the best in the division this year.

Let’s move on to the Cincinnati Bengals. As much as fans are going to love to hate Joe Mixon, there’s no denying his raw talent. Mixon was the most talented and explosive back in this year’s draft class, but again, he can’t seem to get out of his own way. But if he can, watch out. Couple that with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and this Bengals running back crew could be scary. At the other end of Ohio resides a running back trio just as scary. Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell should have a field day this season, behind a revamped offensive line. Duke Johnson is a hybrid running back and slot receiver, so there’s no doubt that he’ll be valuable to Hue JacksonMatt Dayes is a wild card for the Browns, but he’s been having a good training camp thus far.

Who do the Ravens even have anymore? Terrance WestKenneth Dixon, and a forever-injured Danny Woodhead? For a team that used to pride itself on its ground game, that’s pretty…mediocre. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Wide Receiver

The Best: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Rest: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens

Once again, the Steelers dominate this list. For the three main offensive positions, the Steel City has them totally covered. Boasting perhaps one of the best in the league at the position in Antonio Brown, the Steelers receiving corps is nothing to sneeze at. Pair that up with a sober Martavis Bryant and the blazing fast Sammie Coates. Those are some serious weapons for any quarterback.

Back to Cincinnati, the Bengals have perhaps one of the most interesting receiving trios in the league. They know exactly what they have in the prolific A.J. Green, and they keep trying to pair another star receiver with him. This time, they may have succeeded. Along with the promising young Tyler Boyd and the new fastest man in football, John Ross, the Bengals might have found another weapon to pair with Green.

The Ravens and the Browns have a tie in this case. Although the Browns currently lack a number one wide receiver, their young core looks more promising than what the Ravens have. Conversely, the Ravens have a top option in Jeremy Maclin. However, he’s already 30 years old, and their core isn’t getting any younger. Baltimore and Cleveland tie for this category.

Tight End

The Best: Cincinnati Bengals

The Rest: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens

Tyler Eifert is a top ten tight end. Not only is he the best in the AFC North, but he’s also one of the best in the league. He has some troubles being healthy sometimes, but so does Rob Gronkowski. Along with Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah, the Bengals have the best tight end crew in the division, and one of the best in the league.

For Pittsburgh, it’s weird to see them not dominating some part of this list. However, Jesse James is very much a serviceable tight end. Luckily for the Steelers, they have so many other options that Roethlisberger can use. Tight ends really aren’t the focal point of the offense, and in the Steelers case, that’s just fine.

The Cleveland Browns are home to one of the most intriguing tight end prospects of this decade, David Njoku. Front offices had their pick between Njoku and O.J. Howard during this year’s NFL Draft. While Howard is now suiting up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Njoku is at training camp for the Browns. Along with Seth Devalve, the raw Njoku helps to complete one of the most athletic tight end duos in the league.

Outside of the injured Dennis Pitta, the Ravens are lacking at the tight end spot. Although Maxx Williams is promising, he’s just not ready yet. Aside from that, Crockett Gillmore seems to be their top option. It’s not one of the worst tight end sets in the league, but it certainly isn’t one of the best.

Offensive Line

The Best: Cleveland Browns

The Rest: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals

After signing J.C. Tretter and resetting the guard market with Kevin Zeitler‘s contract, the Browns should have one of the best offensive lines in football. Of course, that’s only on paper. While only time can tell if those two can work with Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio, it definitely looks promising. Hopefully, this lets the Browns keep a steady quarterback on the field.

The Steelers, though, have a top ten offensive line that has already meshed together. With Alejandro Villanueva in the tackle spot, and Maurkice Pouncey in the middle, those two can really anchor any line in the league. While some of the other spots remain up in the air, the Steelers line has already meshed very well. The only reason they aren’t at the top is due to the potential of what the Browns could have.

Boasting Marshal Yanda, one of the best guards in the league, the Ravens have an alright foundation for an offensive line. However, Yanda is basically all they have. Ronnie Stanley is still developing, and the rest of the line is…meh. It’s a bit mean to say, but no wonder Flacco has been getting destroyed lately.

Oh boy. Despite how good of a quarterback he is, Andy Dalton is going to get absolutely annihilated this season. Outside of the Seattle Seahawks, the Bengals just might have the worst offensive line in the National Football League. Certainly, they have the worst line in the AFC North. Andrew Whitworth has signed with the Los Angeles Rams, and Zeitler is now a Brown. Good luck, Andy Dalton. You’re going to need it.

Take a look at the AFC North’s best by position on defense and special teams.

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