Heller: AFC North Answers to my Preseason Series “3 Burning Questions”


With the regular season over, here are the answers to my three burning questions from before the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers 

How much will Antonio Brown be missed? JuJu Smith-Schuster battled lingering injuries all season long, much to the chagrin of Steeler Nation and many fantasy owners who really thought this was going to be his breakout year. Perhaps, next season, JuJu will fare better. 

Does Ben Roethlisberger have any more tread on his tires? Since Big Ben missed all but a handful of games due to an elbow injury, I can’t make an honest assessment. In the small sample he provided, he looked to still be feeling out his receivers. 


Will T.J. Watt continue to be dominant? The All-Pro selection simply answers that question. He played just as good as in his rookie season, which helped keep his team in games. The addition of a ball-hawking Minkah Fitzpatrick helped by making quarterbacks hesitate just a little bit longer. 

Baltimore Ravens 

Can Lamar Jackson improve? Well, let’s see. He all but had the MVP award locked up by midseason. Every week, he provided a few more highlight plays. And he led his team to a two-loss season. It’s safe to say the answer to this one is yes


What will they get out of Mark Ingram? As the featured back, Ingram did not disappoint. He, like Jackson, provided his fair share of highlights this season.

Can this secondary gel? New Raven Earl Thomas had an immediate impact in the secondary. The team acquired Marcus Peters midseason, which only further solidified this unit. 

Cleveland Browns 

LSU, take two? Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry were billed to be the receiving core of all receiving cores. Landry had a solid season for the Browns. Beckham, on the other hand, with the exception of a handful of highlight catches, had a mediocre season in Cleveland. The morning sports shows featured more of his tantrums than his on-field play. 

What will Baker Mayfield do for an encore? Many people’s preseason pick for MVP contention had a mediocre sophomore season. Fans saw him more in just about every commercial than in Browns highlights. 


How dominant can this defense be? They, at times, seemed to be clicking. But the suspension of Myles Garrett caused a ripple effect that lasted throughout the season. Sheldon Richardson had a solid season, at least.

Cincinnati Bengals

Can Andy Dalton stay healthy? While he did stay healthy, head coach Zac Taylor turned the signal-caller duties over to Jeff Driskel for a couple weeks. Once the reigns were turned back over to Dalton, he seemed like a different quarterback, but that didn’t translate into many wins.

What will the Bengals get out of A.J. Green? To put it bluntly, absolutely nothing. The Bengals’ star wide receiver sat out all season when he was expected back by the halfway point. Did he need to miss extra time or was he simply held out due to the extreme failure of the season? 

What can we expect from first year head coach Zac Taylor? Although his first season lacked wins, Taylor made the decisions necessary to give his team their best chance on the field. Benching Dalton was definitely a shot in the arm. With the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, it could be a great consolation prize come his first season as head coach. 

Like many, I was on the Cleveland bandwagon. For the Steelers, while their defense was top-notch, their quarterback carousel was just too much for them to overcome. The Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC.


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