It's unanimous. Our AFC North writers are picking the Steelers to win the division, but will they be joined by another division team in the playoffs?
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: As in most seasons, the divisional race will be tight in Weeks 14 through 17, with two teams ultimately qualifying for the playoffs. The Steelers will win because they might have their best chance at a Super Bowl berth since 2010. Questions persist about the quality of the pass defense, particularly over the middle, but the Steelers keep adding pieces and now have enough athletes to at least match up well in most one-on-ones. Age and lack of depth in Baltimore’s secondary are concerns, as is the thin crop of proven playmakers behind Mike Wallace, though Jeremy Maclin will help. Cincinnati has kept most of its tough defense intact and added potent offensive weapons, but this team thrives when running the ball well, and the offensive line is unproven. In the end, it’s Pittsburgh in the lead and Baltimore/Cincinnati jockeying for a wild-card berth.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Pittsburgh wins the division, and Baltimore gets the wild card. The Steelers will become the first team to capture back-to-back AFC North titles since the Ravens did so in 2011-12. Pittsburgh returns 20 of 22 starters from a team that won five of six games in the division and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens have loaded up on defense and have enough weapons on offense to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The question marks on Baltimore’s offensive line will keep the Ravens from overtaking the Steelers for the division. Cincinnati lost a good chunk of its leadership in free agency, and Cleveland is still too far away after winning one game last season.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Pittsburgh wins the division, and the Steelers will be joined in the playoffs by the Ravens, whose defense will make them a wild card. Pittsburgh will be the class of this division as long as Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are on the field. There is no team that can match that trio. Baltimore has question marks at receiver, but its defense was ranked seventh last season and has improved with free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr. Cincinnati will come close, but Pittsburgh and Baltimore will represent the AFC North in the playoffs.
Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: The Steelers will win the division for the second straight season. The Steelers have the pieces in place to make it to the playoffs for the fourth straight year after posting an 11-5 record in 2016. With Roethlisberger returning after contemplating retirement, he, Brown and Bell could lead the team back to the playoffs. However, don’t count out the possibility of a second AFC North team making the postseason. The Bengals and Ravens went 6-9-1 and 8-8 last season, respectively, but they aren’t necessarily trending downward. Both teams are capable of bouncing and have the pieces in place to make a run to the postseason.