No passing fancy in AFC North
Ozzie Newsome presided over a busy offseason. The acquisitions made by the Ravens' general manager looked to be aimed at a team that slipped to the middle of the pack in pass defense in 2009.
The Bengals assured they will at least be entertaining when they signed wide receiver Terrell Owens. They also took tight end Jermaine Gresham with their first pick in the NFL Draft, a bid to help Carson Palmer return to the ranks of elite NFL quarterbacks.
Additions made by the Steelers' rivals in the AFC North seemingly put their secondary under siege. But the Steelers, who went from No. 1 in pass defense in 2008 to No. 16 a season ago, are not looking at it that way.
"You want to play against the best. That's what this level is about, so it's a good challenge for the defense," safety Ryan Clark said. "We want to get better. We want to be better than we were last year, so what better than to have a guy like (new Ravens wide receiver) Anquan Boldin, a guy like T.O. in your division?"
Boldin, acquired in a trade with the Cardinals, gives the Ravens a No. 1 receiver. He should help Joe Flacco, who appears to be on the cusp of becoming a top-tier quarterback.
Owens will start opposite Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati.
"There's not a defensive coordinator that hasn't been burned by either one of those guys," former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said. "People have a certain degree of fear of those two players."
The biggest concern with the Bengals pairing is that two look-at-me players will produce as much drama as they do highlights. It will be up to Palmer to keep both happy while incorporating Gresham into the passing game.
"I think Palmer can handle anything," said Ron Jaworski, a color analyst with Gruden for ESPN's Monday Night Football. "He's a rock-solid quarterback, a rock-solid citizen and an excellent leader of the football team."
Flacco will lead an offense that considerably upgraded its passing game, at least on paper. Beyond Boldin, the Ravens also signed Donte Stallworth, who returns after a yearlong suspension, to provide a deep threat. And they drafted a pair of tight ends -- Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta -- to ease the burden on the aging Todd Heap.
"Of course it puts more pressure on us when they add talent like that," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said. "But it's nothing any more than we've dealt with in the past. First and foremost, it's always about stopping the run. We don't call pass defenses the whole time. We're always doing stuff to stop the run."
The Steelers won't stray from their philosophy of shutting down the run and unleashing defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's exotic blitzes in passing situations.
And the Steelers, who reacquired cornerback Bryant McFadden in April, can counter those acquisitions if they can keep Polamalu on the field. The five-time Pro Bowler played in parts of only five games last season because of a pair of knee injuries, but he appears healthy.
"I'm all over the Steelers this year as my sleeper in the AFC because everybody's written them off. Everybody talks about personnel, how great the Ravens are going to be," said Trent Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback. "I'm looking at the common denominator and saying, 'You know what• The Pittsburgh Steelers are ballplayers.' They have the right mentality: Do your job. Get it done."Additional Information:
The Steelers figure to be challenged after their AFC North rivals took steps to upgrade their passing attacks during the offseason:
• Signed WR Terrell Owens
• Selected TE Jermaine Gresham in draft's first round
• Traded for WR Anquan Boldin
• Signed WR Donte Stallworth
• Drafted TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta
• Signed QB Jake Delhomme
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Steelers’ Adams delivers in pinch against Texans
- Steelers free safety Mitchell is still settling into role on defense
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Rossi: Middling Steelers must make a statement
- Steelers dial up 2-point play for Brown’s TD toss
- Steelers’ defense on pace for fewest sacks in 16-game season
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Steelers notebook: Young players provide big challenge for special teams coach
- Steelers lookahead: Colts QB Luck becoming one of NFL’s elite