We looked ahead to the offseason in our latest "Thought of the Day" in the AFC North.
Both teams entered this past season as Super Bowl contenders and fell short. Therefore, which organization is closer to becoming a title contender in 2010?
Here were responses from our AFC North inbox:
Dan from Omaha, Nebraska, writes: This is an easy one, James. Pittsburgh is closer. Pittsburgh's biggest problems this year were motivation and injuries (Troy Polamalu). Pitt played down to its level of competition all year. Pitt played well against the good teams and bad against the bad ones. There’s a reason they call it a Super Bowl hangover. There’s something to it and Pitt is neither the first or last team to suffer from it.
Don from Pittsburgh writes: This one is easy. B-more signs one big-time WR and its problems on offense are solved. Pittsburgh on the other hand has a horrible secondary, no real backup for 31-year-old James Harrison, a D-line that has been old for three years now, an O-line that is just lacking talent, and a hole at backup RB if Willie Parker leaves in free agency. The Steelers are also experiencing quite a lot of turnover in their coaching ranks this year.
Joey from Cincinnati writes: Both teams should be solid again, but you have to say that Pittsburgh is the team most likely to rebound. There are many reasons why this is the case, but you can pretty much sum it up with two words: Big Ben. Ben Roethlisberger is proven and a game changer. Joe Flacco hasn't shown it, and until he does, I'll pick the Steelers every time.
Mike Pallatto from Houston writes: Baltimore in my view is easier to fix. Pittsburgh is getting old on defense, and that will take time to fix, especially considering they draft players and hardly ever make any big free-agent signings. The offense is pretty much set, but they need depth at RB and OL.
Tim from Philly, PA, writes: The Steelers only need to add a little depth on defense. We can be corrected in the draft. The Ravens look like they may be losing even more depth on defense and offense with the possible retirements of Derrick Mason and Ed Reed.
Hank from Bel Air, MD, writes: The Steelers are in a better position today. Much will depend on the CBA. Baltimore could be in a position to losing a number of starters, especially in the wide receiver area. It sure looks like Flacco is going to have many new faces to throw the ball to and that doesn't bode well for Baltimore. Flacco and his new receivers will need a year or two to get on the same page. Baltimore is also short on tight ends. Todd Heap is good but the Ravens couldn't go with a lot of two tights during the year
James Savich from Bradenton, Florida, writes: I believe that the Steelers are closer to a title than the Ravens. Baltimore is getting old and key players might not be back next year. Pittsburgh has a nice draft pick this year, and the core of that team is coming back. If Pittsburgh picks up one of these three positions they will be solid next year, either a offensive lineman, linebacker, or a cornerback.
AFC North Final Word
James Walker: I have confidence in both front offices to make the necessary moves to be a contender next season. But as of January, Pittsburgh has fewer concerns. With a healthy Polamalu next season, the Steelers are already a playoff team in my opinion. Add depth and a few upgrades here and there through the draft and free agency, and Pittsburgh should have a bounce-back season. Meanwhile, the Ravens have a lot of free agents (Mason, Jared Gaither, Mark Clayton, Dawan Landry, Fabian Washington, Justin Bannan, Troy Smith) who have key roles with the team. They will have to take care of those decisions in addition to finding a big-name receiver, which will not be easy in an uncapped year. The possible retirements of Mason and Reed are also major, pending issues the team may have to deal with. I expect more work for Baltimore this offseason.
If you have any future "Thought of the Day" topics for the AFC North, feel free to send them to our division inbox.