NFL Nation: Shannon Sharp

[+] EnlargeJerome Bettis
Allen Kee/NFL/Getty ImagesDuring his 13-year career Jerome Bettis topped 1,000 yards a season eight times.
The AFC North will not have a representative in the 2011 Hall of Fame class. The division's two finalists -- Jerome Bettis and Dermontti Dawson -- failed to make the cut Saturday.

Bettis was one of the league's great running backs, spending most of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and rushing for 13,662 yards and 91 touchdowns. He did not make it beyond the cut of 15 players. Dawson was a stalwart center for Pittsburgh for 13 seasons, but failed to make it to the final five.

I knew it would be tough going for both players this year as Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk were first-ballot locks, leaving just three slots for 13 great players. But the time element makes the situation for Bettis and Dawson different.

I agree with the committee that Bettis is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But I think Bettis has a solid chance to get in eventually. He's fifth on the NFL's all-time leading rusher list, a six-time Pro Bowler and has a Super Bowl ring. But Bettis has to wait his turn like many outstanding players before him.

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Dawson has been on the ballot since 2005 and year after year he's left on the outside looking in. It appears his candidacy has improved this year. But several quality first-ballot candidates will continue coming down the pike and not leave many slots available for Dawson.

This year's class includes Sanders, Faulk, defensive end Richard Dent, tight end Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol of NFL Films. Linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter made it as senior nominees. Sharpe played two seasons with the Ravens but was primarily known as a Denver Bronco.

Best Ravens Team Ever: 2000

June, 23, 2010
6/23/10
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Notable players: LB Ray Lewis, OT Jonathan Ogden, S Rod Woodson, TE Shannon Sharpe, RB Jamal Lewis, LB Peter Boulware, CB Chris McAlister, DT Sam Adams

[+] EnlargeRay Lewis
AP Photo/Nick WassRay Lewis and the Ravens' defense helped the young franchise win its first, and so far only, Super Bowl.
Analysis: The 2000 Ravens are the clear choice for a franchise that's only been in existence for 14 years. It was the only team to win a Super Bowl and also had arguably the most dominant defense of all time.

Baltimore was far from a perfect Super Bowl team in 2000. Most notably, the team had issues at quarterback. The Ravens started with Tony Banks under center but finished with Trent Dilfer, who played efficiently enough for Baltimore to make an incredible run to end the season.

At one point, the Ravens were a middle-of-the-pack, 5-4 team. Then Baltimore got hot, winning seven straight to end the regular season and four more postseason games, including a victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

Led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens set several defensive records in 2000, including fewest points (165) and fewest rushing yards (970) allowed in a 16-game season. Baltimore also pitched four shutouts.

There were seemingly no weaknesses on defense. Baltimore's defensive line was stout with Adams and Tony Siragusa, the linebackers were elite, and the secondary had stud playmakers at safety (Woodson) and cornerback (McAlister).

Then-rookie tailback Jamal Lewis anchored the offense with 1,364 rushing yards. Tight end Sharpe was the team's most dependable receiver, recording 67 receptions for 810 yards.

Most impressive win: Although the Super Bowl win over the Giants will go down as the biggest game of the season, the most impressive was Baltimore's dominance in the AFC Championship Game, a 16-3 road win over the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens' defense smothered Oakland's high-powered offense led by quarterback Rich Gannon. Baltimore forced five Oakland turnovers.

Research Room: Longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover made the only Pro Bowl of his 19-year career in 2000. With an inconsistent offense, Stover was clutch in connecting on 35 of 39 field goals. He led the NFL in both field goals made and field-goal attempts that season. Stover also converted all 30 extra-point attempts.

Lone ranger: Ray Lewis remains the only player currently with the Ravens from their Super Bowl team in '00. Now 35, the future Hall of Famer is still playing at a Pro Bowl level. Lewis signed a multi-year deal in '09 to make certain that he retires a Raven.

Several key members from Baltimore's Super Bowl team left the organization in the past several seasons. Jamal Lewis last played for the Ravens in '06, Ogden retired after the '07 season, and McAlister and Stover last played for Baltimore in '08.

Honorable mentions (in order):

2006 (tie): Baltimore finally got solid quarterback play from former NFL MVP Steve McNair, and the Ravens won 13 regular-season games. But in the postseason they ran into nemesis Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who eventually won the Super Bowl.

2008 (tie): The Ravens became the first NFL team to win two road playoff games with a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco). But their run was stifled in fourth quarter of the AFC title game to another eventual Super Bowl champion: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

2001: Baltimore's attempt to defend a Super Bowl title ended with a second-round playoff exit. The Elvis Grbac experiment was a disaster. After signing a big free-agent deal with Baltimore, he had more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15).

Morning take: Ike's big day?

January, 30, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC North:

Morning take: This article is correct. These are the games that create stars. If Taylor shuts down Arizona Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald -- a tall order -- Taylor would quickly become a household name.

Morning take: Lewis learned a lot under Sharpe when the two were together in Baltimore. At the very least, Lewis will pay attention to Sharpe's words.

  • With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hiring former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator, this means candidate and Cincinnati Bengals assistant Ken Zampese will return to the Queen City.

Morning take: It looks like the Bengals will get both their quarterbacks coach (Zampese) and quarterback (Carson Palmer) next season.

Morning take: This is the time of year when every player says this. My guess is, with a new coaching staff, Adams and many other in-house free agents will not return.

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