When people speak on the AFC North the number one thing that comes to mind is defense. Over the years these 4 teams have had tough physical defensive battles. During the mid to early 2000s, the Ravens and Steelers had some of the most enjoyable defensive battles, especially playoff battles. Above all the AFC north is run by its defenses. For that reason, we will rank each team’s defensive units heading into the 2022 season.
A season ago the Cleveland Browns had a top 10 defense. According to NFL.com the Browns had a 6th-ranked overall defense in the entire league a year ago. Returning 9 of 11 starters to this defensive unit, Cleveland is poised to pick up where they left off and compete at a higher level. With Myles Garrett and company they are looking to play at a much higher level. Furthermore, the combination of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney rushing the passer will help. The pair combined for 25 sacks, and secondly the defensive backs contributed at a high level as well. Pro-Football-Focus has the secondary ranked as number 3 in the league. In addition, the defensive ranks are as follows, 21.5 points allowed per game. Gave up 109.2 rush yards a game, passing yards were 202.3, and total yards allowed was 311.5
Due to significant injuries to more than 20 players, the Ravens did not perform up to their full potential. However, the team has historically had elite-level defenses. According to PFF, the Baltimore Ravens have the number 1 ranked secondary in the entire league. With more than half the team returning from an injury that will go a long way in boosting up this defense as a whole. The Ravens decided to bolster their defense by drafting defense heavily this off-season. Ranked 25th a year ago they are looking for much improvement. In conclusion, Raven’s defense surrendered 23.1 points per game, 84.5 rush yards a game, 278.9 passing yards, and 363.4 total yards per game.
Had a spectacular playoff run all the way to the super bowl. According to pro football focus, the Bengals have a top 10 secondaries and should lead the charge for this defensive unit during the upcoming season. Last season the Bengals had a top 20 defense in their own right. Ranked at number 18 in the year there can be room for improvement. The Bengals added some rotational and depth players for this defense to help bolster the unit. In order for the Bengals to get back to the Super Bowl, this unit will be an intricate part. They will face a lot of great young quarterbacks playing in the AFC to really compete. In addition, the Cincinnatti Bengals defense allowed 22.1 points per game, 102.5 rush yards a game, 248.4 pass yards a game, and a total of 363.4 total yards a game.
A storied franchise the Steelers are always relevant because of their defensive talent each season. In essence, Pittsburgh has a top 10 defense each year it seems. As well to go with that top defense, they had the reigning defensive player of the year in TJ Watt. With 22.5 sacks on the season, he is the engine that gets this unit going. On the heels of Big Ben retiring this team is in unfamiliar territory. In the meantime, this team will lean heavily on its defense. With young unproven quarterback play, it may be a lot to carry for this defense to carry. With the 24th ranked defense, last sean and 28th ranked secondary this unit does have some serious flaws. In conclusion, the Steeler’s defense allowed 23.4 points a game, 146.1 rush yards a game, 215.1 passing yards a game, and lastly 361.1 total offensive yards a game.
The AFC North will be a very tough division to compete in this season. Each team’s defense brings something different to the table. However, the Browns and Ravens seem to have the top defensive units in the division. I give the Browns the edge because they had a top 5 defense a season ago and returning the majority of their starters from a year ago. With arguably the best defensive player in the division in Myles Garrett takes them a long way. With Raven’s defense and team becoming more healthy they won’t be pushovers. The Bengals and Steelers have work to do but should be viable. The Bengals D will benefit from having such an explosive offense. In the fourth place, the Steelers will have to depend on the defense all season long. It may be a lot to handle for them.