Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: All the concerns in Pittsburgh about Mike Tomlin possibly suffering a sophomore jinx should be put to rest. At 6-2, Tomlin is doing a masterful job in his second season with the Steelers and deserves some consideration for NFL Coach of the Year. Tomlin has an impressive demeanor that permeates through the rest of his locker room, as the team has handled injuries and adversity effortlessly. That's a major reason Pittsburgh has developed into one of the NFL's elite. John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens (5-3) also deserves a lot of credit for what he's done in his first season.
|G Fiume/Getty Images|
|In his first season as a starter, Joe Flacco has done what the Ravens have asked of him.|
Offensive Player of the Year: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: This was a tough category because there has not been a lot of consistent offense played in the AFC North. But Roethlisberger has been steady, although not spectacular. He's battled through shoulder and finger ailments to keep the Steelers on a roll. Despite a lot of pass protection issues, he's made the big plays when needed.
Defensive Player of the Year: Terrell Suggs, LB/DE, Baltimore Ravens
Analysis: This category, on the other hand, had at least a half-dozen quality candidates to choose from. Terrell Suggs has 36 tackles, seven pass deflections and two interceptions. Most notably, he knows what to do with the football: His interceptions became long, game-changing touchdown returns. Players like Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison also are on an incredible run together. Both Steelers linebackers come in a very, very close second and it would be hard to pick between the two.
MVP: Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh
Analysis: Harrison and Woodley get the sacks, but Troy Polamalu is the one player in the division -- and perhaps the NFL -- who brings an element to a defense that no one else has. Polamalu's 36 tackles, 8 passes defended and 3 interceptions are solid. But it's his ability to shadow the opposing team's best player and smarts to make sure Pittsburgh is playing its complicated scheme correctly that stands out most. He is the most dynamic player in the division, and the Steelers' top-rated defense wouldn't look the same without him in the lineup.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Analysis: This is not a strong year for rookies in the AFC North. Two first-round picks didn't make it through the first half of the season as Pittsburgh first-year running back Rashard Mendenhall (fractured shoulder) and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers (broken jaw) are out for the year. Although Flacco's statistics (1,464 yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) are not overwhelming, he has done a solid job of putting the Ravens in position to win five games. Flacco also is improving as the season goes on and should have an even better second half.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Keith Rivers, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Keith Rivers gets the nod here. But since he will not play another game this season, someone else eventually will take this mantle by season's end. Rivers had been playing well prior to his injury. He recorded 37 tackles and one interception in seven games before Steelers receiver Hines Ward broke his jaw with a crushing block in October. With Rivers out, a potential candidate to look out for could be Cleveland Browns rookie linebacker Alex Hall, who has three sacks in his first eight games.
Biggest surprise: Mewelde Moore, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: Who would have thought coming into the season that a third-string running back would help carry Pittsburgh through the first half of the season? Moore has filled in admirably once starter Willie Parker (knee) and Mendenhall (shoulder) went down. Mendenhall is out for the year and Parker returned Monday after a four-game absence. Moore is second to Parker on the team in rushing with 320 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has proven to be an added weapon, if needed.