Underrated players: AFC North

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
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NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Cincinnati Bengals

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
AP Photo/Mike McCarnAndrew Whitworth has become a team leader in Cincinnati.
Andrew Whitworth, left tackle: Whitworth has quietly developed into one of the NFL's better left tackles, but you wouldn't know it because of the team he plays for. Whitworth rarely gives up sacks and has held up well against elite pass-rushers such as James Harrison in Pittsburgh and Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. Opponents speak highly of Whitworth, but he's never been to a Pro Bowl and rarely gets much attention outside Cincinnati. Whitworth also has taken over the important role of the Bengals' locker room leader after the departure of Willie Anderson.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Brett Keisel, defensive end: When the beard is more popular than the player, you're definitely underrated. Last season, Keisel received more publicity than ever in his 10-year career for his playoff beard. The beard has its own stories, T-shirts and Facebook page, while Keisel the player remained under the radar. Because of Pittsburgh's 3-4 scheme, defensive ends for the Steelers will never put up gaudy stats or get the recognition they deserve. But Keisel, a former seventh-round pick, has been at the forefront of Pittsburgh's stout run defense for a long time. Keisel earned his first Pro Bowl nod as an injury replacement last season, although he missed the game because of the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Browns

Ben Watson, tight end: The AFC North reception leader for tight ends last season wasn't Heath Miller, Todd Heap or 2010 first-round pick Jermaine Gresham. It was Watson, who caught 68 passes for 763 yards and provided the only consistent receiving threat for the Browns this past season. Watson is expected to be quarterback Colt McCoy's safety valve again in 2011. Cleveland's front office gets plenty of praise for last year's draft class. But the team also quietly hit on several free agents and trades. Watson was among a group of new contributors to Cleveland that included tailback Peyton Hillis and linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong.

Baltimore Ravens

Jarret Johnson, linebacker: For years, Johnson has been the unsung player on a defense filled with big names like Suggs, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. Johnson has been a full-time starter for Baltimore the past four years and is extremely durable. He's missed only one game in eight seasons. Johnson also has the versatility to do whatever the coaching staff needs in a given week. Johnson recorded 50 tackles or more in each of the past four seasons.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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