This week in the AFC North two teams are battling for the top of the division. While the other two teams are fighting to stay out of the bottom of the division. The Ravens are hoping their offseason additions payoff by slowing down the Steelers’ passing game. Pittsburgh hopes Le’Veon Bell shakes off the rust soon. Cleveland looks like they will have Myles Garrett back just in time for the Bengals.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Sunday, October 1st, 1:00 p.m. EST
Baltimore’s secondary was built for Pittsburgh
The Ravens’ had a weird time in London. They were picked apart by Blake Bortles who tossed four touchdowns. It was the complete opposite of what the Ravens’ defense had done all season where they shut down the Bengals and Browns offenses. Obviously both of those offenses aren’t really awe inspiring, but 10 turnovers through two weeks is extremely impressive.
The thing that has helped the Ravens on defense this season is their improved secondary. The team brought in Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr through free agency. The Ravens also drafted Marlon Humphrey in the first round of the draft. They are joining a secondary that already had Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle.
It is clear these moves were made to compete with their biggest rival, the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s weapons strike fear into most secondaries. Antonio Brown alone is enough in most cases, but the Steelers also had Martavis Bryant return from a year long suspension this season. Bryant and Brown combine for probably the most fearsome wide receiver combinations in the NFL.
Now the Ravens will have to see if these additions help slow down the Steelers passing attack.
Pittsburgh continues to struggle to run
Bell and the Steelers were locked in a contract dispute for most of the offseason, and when the deadline passed to sign a long term deal, Bell opted to hold out until after the preseason to return to the Steelers.
Many figured that Bell wouldn’t be too affected by this decision, but it clearly has caused a slow start for him. He has yet to eclipse 100 total yards this season. He has also only scored once in three games.
There is little doubt that Bell will eventually get back on track, but it is clear the Steelers need him to soon. Pittsburgh came into the season expecting to be a juggernaut on offense, but the highest score they’ve reached so far is 26 points against the Vikings.
If the Steelers want to reach that next offensive tier, they need Bell to shake off the rust quickly.
Injury report: Steelers missing offensive line
The Steelers could be down a couple offensive linemen. The Ravens could be missing their most important defensive lineman though.
Ramon Foster was knocked out of the game against the Bears with a thumb injury missed two straight practices this week. Marcus Gilbert, who left the Week 2 matchup with the Vikings due to a hamstring injury. He was a full participant on Wednesday, but he went back to being limited on Thursday. The Steelers would really miss these two against the Ravens pass rush.
Luckily for the Steelers the Ravens will probably be without Brandon Williams for the second straight week. He appeared at a practice, but he didn’t participate. He has yet to return to practice since suffering his foot injury against the Browns.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-3): Sunday, October 1st, 1:00 p.m. EST
Garrett makes return to practice, still iffy to play
This makes so much sense for how the Bengals’ season has gone. The Browns’ first-overall pick, Myles Garrett, could be making his debut against the Bengals’ struggling offensive line. The rookie hasn’t played this season due to a high ankle sprain, but he returned to practice this week, though it looks like he could sit out another week.
This would obviously a great way for Garrett to come into the league. Andy Dalton has been under pressure all season long, and last week the Bengals started rotating Andre Smith in at offensive tackle. The team claims it was due to weather, but I think we all hope a change is coming.
Thomas speaks out for Kizer
Many Browns’ fans are starting to speak out against DeShone Kizer. The rookie has yet to win a game, but he managed to keep it super close with the Steelers. He also led a pretty great comeback attempt against the Colts last week that came up just short.
However, Joe Thomas told ESPN that Kizer had his best games as a pro last week.
"I saw the way that he was throwing in rhythm," Thomas said. "He was making quick, decisive decisions with the football. Wasn't taking as many sacks. And I think that's huge progress.
"You can see as the second half got on he was getting confidence in understanding the route concepts, understanding the coverages, knowing where the ball needs to go on time. To me it seemed like a really big step."
It is true that the first two weeks of the season Kizer was holding onto the ball far too long. The thing is he is a rookie who is learning on the go what he can and can’t do at this level.
Last week the Browns receivers dropped an incredible amount of throws. Through three weeks Duke Johnson Jr. leads the Browns in receiving. A running back is his best receiver, and people want to call him a bust?
Kizer is showing strides. They don’t all show up on the stat sheet as Thomas points out, but they are there. Cleveland fans need to be a little more patient with their rookie. I know they’ve been hurt before, but you have to give a guy a chance.