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Pro Bowl analysis: AFC North

12/16/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Baltimore Ravens led the AFC North division with five Pro Bowl selections. Three were on defense with linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs. Tailback/fullback Le'Ron McClain also qualified for his first Pro Bowl in addition to special teamer Brendan Ayanbadejo.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who clinched the AFC North title and is 11-3, had three Pro Bowlers in safety Troy Polamalu and linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior.

The Cleveland Browns had two players earn a Pro Bowl nod with defensive lineman Shaun Rogers and offensive tackle Joe Thomas. The Cincinnati Bengals were shutout.

It is hard to argue the eight combined Pro Bowlers for the Steelers and Ravens. It's a defensive division and those teams are winning, so the production was recognized.

The selection of McClain as a fullback was somewhat curious because he plays a lot of tailback and has been a featured ball carrier for most of the season. McClain would not have made the Pro Bowl otherwise.

We also question the selection of Thomas, who played much better last season as a rookie and was an alternate. This year his play was decent, but not great, and he was selected as a starter.

As far as snubs, start right at the top with Pittsburgh. The defensive unit has been No. 1 for much of the season but only produced three Pro Bowlers.

Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was the biggest name left out. Woodley's had a breakout year with 11.5 sacks.

A case also could be made for Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (50 tackles, one sack, two interceptions). But there was a strong group of candidates this year in Rogers, Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans and Kris Jenkins of the New York Jets.

Overall, the division was well represented with 10 Pro Bowlers among the four teams.