Who will be MVP of the AFC North this season? Our roundtable reporters give their picks:
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He remains a top-five quarterback, which makes him a candidate for NFL MVP, much less the AFC North one. Roethlisberger is the catalyst for one of the most explosive offenses in the league, finishing second in the NFL last season with 283 yards passing per game. The only quarterbacks who’ve won more than 20 games and have thrown for more than 45 touchdowns over the past two seasons are Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Roethlisberger. This is select company when you consider Brady and Ryan have won the NFL MVP award the past two years. Roethlisberger has the benefit of a strong supporting cast. In addition to wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell, Big Ben is protected by one of the top offensive lines in the league. There’s added incentive for Roethlisberger. He has two years left on his deal, and he’s in line for what is likely his last extension with the Steelers. Another big season could lead to him cashing in right away.
Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: Steelers WR Antonio Brown. Brown is one of the best receivers in the league and will be one of the favorites for postseason accolades after accumulating 1,533 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season despite playing in only 14 regular-season games. It’s certainly not a given that things will be the same with the offense this year, considering the Steelers have a new offensive coordinator after promoting former quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner. However, Roethlisberger is back again, and Brown is in the prime of his career. Brown will remain one of the most important pieces on the offense.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Brown. How can you pick against the best player in the league? Brown has averaged 1,570 receiving yards the past five seasons. He also has averaged 10 touchdowns over that time. That’s half a decade of excellence, longer than many players' careers. Brown has set new standards for the position and is headed for Canton when his career ends. Whether Brown or Roethlisberger gets the credit and is the division MVP is a matter of debate. Brown will be an integral part of the Steelers' success and deserves MVP recognition for the entire league.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Roethlisberger. The Steelers QB is well-positioned to have his best season since 2014. Injuries, the lack of a consistent No. 2 receiver and slow starts have affected Roethlisberger’s numbers since then. He has everything in place now, from a steady arsenal of weapons to motivation on tap. He’s one more season from a potentially massive contract extension, eyeing that third Super Bowl win that has eluded him since 2008 and planning to fend off draft pick Mason Rudolph for at least a few more years. Roethlisberger’s running mates Brown and Bell might alter this race, along with Ravens running back Alex Collins and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. But if the Steelers' offense takes off as planned, Roethlisberger could contend for his first NFL MVP award.