1. Pittsburgh Steelers
A normally defensive minded team has now become an offensive powerhouse.
2. Baltimore Ravens
An influx of youth at key positions has them ready for a Super Bowl run.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
This is the make or break season for Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton.
4. Cleveland Browns
The defense is playoff ready, but will the offense follow?
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
Key Position: Secondary
The Steelers defensive backs are going to have some new faces this year. Just in the starting lineup with a young crop taking over for Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu who are both out. There were some problems with stopping the big pass plays last year as Polamalu and Taylor were getting up there in age. Pittsburgh’s pass rush should be among the best and that should help the youngsters transition to starters.
Key Acquisitions: RB DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers), QB Michael Vick (New York Jets)
Key Rookies: LB Bud Dupree, CB Senquez Golson, CB Doran Grant
Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Key Position: Wide Receivers
Who is ready to step up to the plate? Torrey Smith is gone and this will be Steve Smith’s last year in the NFL. In comes their first round pick Breshad Perriman and second round pick Maxx Williams. Baltimore shouldn’t lose any speed with Perriman replacing Smith and Williams reminds a lot of personnel of former Ravens TE Todd Heap. That bodes well for QB Joe Flacco having a reliable tight end.
Key Acquisitions: S Kendrick Lewis (Houston Texans), QB Matt Schaub (Oakland Raiders)
Key Rookies: WR Breshad Perriman, TE Maxx Williams
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis
Key Position: Defensive Line
Where will the pass rush come from? Carlos Dunlap had 8 of the teams 20 sacks last year. That stat can’t happen again. Bringing back Michael Johnson helps, but Geno Atkins needs to return to form as a disruptor in the middle for the Bengals defense. This isn’t a blitzing team so the line must create pressure.
Key Acquisitions: LB A.J. Hawk (Green Bay Packers), DE Michael Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Key Rookies: T Cedric Ogbuehi, T Jake Fisher, TE Tyler Kroft, LB Paul Dawson
Head Coach: Mike Pettine
Key Position: Quarterback
This franchise has had so much turnover at the quarterback position that it’s almost not worth making fun of. Almost immediately they regretted taking Johnny Manziel in the first round and they’re hoping that his rehab stint has him focusing on football now. Bringing in Josh McCown doesn’t exactly mean Manziel is out of a job, but they need an insurance policy in case ‘Johnny Football’ doesn’t live up to the hype.
Key Acquisitions: WR Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City Chiefs), WR Brian Hartline (Miami Dolphins), TE Rob Housler (Arizona Cardinals), P Andy Lee (San Francisco 49ers), QB Josh McCown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DL Randy Starks (Miami Dolphins), CB Tramon Williams (Green Bay Packers)
Key Rookies: DT Danny Shelton, OL Cameron Erving, LB Nate Orchard, RB Duke Johnson