Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Steelers defense rises to No. 2

By Jamison Hensley

The Steelers are the only AFC North team upholding the tradition of playing good defense. After dominating a struggling Bengals' offense, Pittsburgh moved up three spots on the NFL rankings (in yards) to No. 2 overall.

With all of the blown fourth-quarter leads, no one is going to even mention this defense with some of the ones in recent years. But statistically speaking, Pittsburgh is faring better than most on defense. The Steelers are holding teams to 277.3 yards per game, which trails only the 49ers (272.3). Pittsburgh is the only division team with a defense ranked in the top half of the league. Last season, all four defenses ranked in the top 10, and the Steelers allowed a league-best 271.8 yards per game.

Many disagree with yards per game being the indicator for overall defensive ranking. In terms of points allowed, the Steelers are allowing 22 points per game, which is 12th in the league. None of the other defenses in the division are keeping teams under 23 points per game.

The biggest fall for offense and defense this week, not surprisingly, involved the Ravens, who lost by 30 points in Houston. Baltimore's offense plummeted eight spots to No. 16, and its scoring defense dropped six spots to No. 17.

Here's a look at the NFL rankings after seven weeks:

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Offense: Overall (17th), run (21st), pass (12th) and scoring (15th).

Defense: Overall (18th), run (21st), pass (18h) and scoring (25th).

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Offense: Overall (27th), run (30th), pass (16th) and scoring (21st).

Defense: Overall (27th), run (24th), pass (26th) and scoring (23rd).

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Offense: Overall (16th), run (16th), pass (14th) and scoring (10th).

Defense: Overall (26th), run (27th), pass (23rd) and scoring (17th-tied).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Offense: Overall (11th), run (26th), pass (6th) and scoring (17th).

Defense: Overall (2nd), run (9th), pass (2nd) and scoring (12th).