No Suggs: Steelers AFC North favorites?


The Pittsburgh Steelers may have lost their first game of the season to the most loathed team in professional sports, but things could have gone a whole lot worse.

Pittsburgh’s defense was a shell of its former glory under Dick LeBeau and they often failed to deliver in the red zone yet in the single most important measure for a Week 1 game they came out with a win: they did not lose any key players to injury.

That’s more than their heated division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens can say.  In case you missed it, their superstar outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was injured in yesterday’s matchup against the Denver Broncos:

A few hours later we learned from NFL insider Ian Rapoport that Suggs tore his Achilles on the play and is out for the entire season.

It’s hard to overstate just how brutal of a loss this is for Baltimore. Suggs is not only the team’s best pass rusher (he’s compiled 22 sacks over the last two seasons) but he’s also an important locker room leader. His experience and fire are a serious inspiration for the Ravens. They feed off of his energy and their defense simply won’t be the same without him on the field.

How does it affect the Steelers? First of all, it will make Ben Roethlisberger‘s life a whole lot easier during their two matchups this year. Suggs has been a thorn in Big Ben’s side throughout his career and has made a habit of either sacking him or picking him off in key moments, such as last year’s playoff game.

Losing Suggs does not guarantee that the Steelers will win both games, but it sure brings that goal much closer, and it clears a major roadblock in a crowded division.

Now it’s time to beg the question: since Suggs is out does that make Pittsburgh the easy favorites to win the AFC North? Let’s take a moment to check in with the Cleveland Browns, who lost to the second most hilarious franchise in football yesterday, the New York Jets:

I think that we can safely assume with Cleveland’s quarterback situation being what it is that they are not a legitimate threat to win the division.

That just leaves the Cincinnati Bengals, who trounced the hapless Oakland Raiders 33-13 yesterday. The Steelers have won six of their last eight contests with Cincinnati, who have made choking in the first round of the playoffs something of an NFL fixture every January.

It’s too early to crown them just yet, but when you add it all up it’s safe to say that Pittsburgh is now the favorite to win the toughest division in the conference.

Next: Steelers MMQB: NFL Week 1 wrap up

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