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Pittsburgh Steelers heavy favourites while Cleveland Browns try to turn it around in AFC North preview

Breaking down the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the new season.

Jay Asser 2018/09/04

The AFC North has been a three-horse race for years, with the Cleveland Browns an afterthought as continuous bottom-dwellers.

After going 1-32 over the past two seasons, the Browns are banking on turning around their woes by notching multiple wins this year, but have a long climb up the division.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are flush with talent, remain the team to beat, while the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are also built to challenge for a playoff spot.

Learn more about the teams with our AFC North team guides.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Head coach: John Harbaugh

Star player: Marshal Yanda

Last season: 9-7

Key ins: Michael Crabtree (Oakland), Willie Snead (New Orleans), John Brown (Arizona), Lamar Jackson (rookie), Haydan Hurst (rookie)

Key outs: Mike Wallace (Philadelphia), Jeremy Maclin (free agent), Danny Woodhead (retired), Lardarius Webb (free agent), Ben Watson (New Orleans)

Strengths: Defence had the most takeaways in the league (34) and second-best passer rating against (72.4) last season.

Weaknesses: Passing game was abysmal under Joe Flacco.

Verdict: Jackson’s presence may push Flacco and his weapons have improved, so a return to the playoffs is within their reach.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Head coach: Marvin Lewis

Star player: A.J. Green

Last season: 7-9

Key ins: Cordy Glenn (Buffalo), Preston Brown (Buffalo), Billy Price (rookie), Jessie Bates (rookie), Sam Hubbard (rookie)

Key outs: Jeremy Hill (New England), A.J. McCarron (Oakland), George Iloka (Minnesota), Adam Jones (Denver), Russell Bodine (Buffalo), Andre Smith (Arizona), Eric Winston (free agent)

Strengths: Talented skill players on offence.

Weaknesses: Shaky offensive line play resulted in second-fewest rushing yards in the league last year (1,366).

Verdict: Have finished third in the division in consecutive years but possess the tools to change that.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Head coach: Hue Jackson

Star player: Myles Garrett

Last season: 0-16

Key ins: E.J. Gaines (Buffalo), Jarvis Landry (Miami), Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo), Carlos Hyde (San Francisco), Chris Hubbard (Pittsburgh), Damarious Randall (Green Bay), Baker Mayfield (rookie), Denzel Ward (rookie), Nick Chubb (rookie),

Key outs: Isaiah Crowell (NY Jets), DeShone Kizer (Green Bay), Danny Shelton (New England), Joe Thomas (retired)

Strengths: Could have one of the best receiver duos with Landry and Josh Gordon.

Weaknesses: Allowed the highest passer rating of any team last year (102.2).

Verdict: They’ll make progress and (finally) win a handful of games.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Head coach: Mike Tomlin

Star player: Antonio Brown

Last season: 13-3, lost in Divisional Round

Key ins: Jon Bostic (Indianapolis), Morgan Burnett (Green Bay), Terrell Edmunds (rookie), James Washington (rookie), Mason Rudolph (rookie)

Key outs: Ryan Shazier (injury), Martavis Bryant (free agent), Mike Mitchell (free agent), Chris Hubbard (Cleveland)

Strengths: Have arguably the best offensive weapons in the league.

Weaknesses: They’ve yet to recover from the loss of Shazier, making their linebacking unit a soft spot.

Verdict: Along with New England and Jacksonville, they’re one of the top contenders in the conference once again.

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A.J. Green Andy Dalton Antonio Brown Baltimore Ravens Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Hue Jackson Joe Flacco Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers Tyrod Taylor