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Roster Reset: Pittsburgh Steelers atop AFC North

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The Patriots, Broncos and Colts all sit comfortably atop their respective divisions, but the AFC North remains up for grabs.

Around The NFL's Roster Reset

After producing a trio of playoff teams last season, the AFC's black-and-blue division has enough talent to repeat the trick in 2015.

The Steelers watched longtime, brilliant defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau walk out the door, but Pittsburgh's weapons on offense make anything possible. Now it's time to restock a secondary ravaged by age and the retirement of future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu.

The Ravens have seen a flock of familiar faces -- Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith and Haloti Ngata -- leave for greener pastures, but nobody in the division does a better job of patching holes through the draft than general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Four straight playoff losses for the Bengals don't change the fact that Cincinnati's roster is stocked with talent. Except at quarterback, where the presence of middling passer Andy Dalton puts a ceiling on our expectations for the organization.

Cleveland's offseason has been a collage of headache-inducing drama, from Ray Farmer's texting scandal to Johnny Manziel's stint in rehab. The Browns added more veteran talent to a rising defense, but coach Mike Pettine still lacks a true starting quarterback. That's no recipe for success in the rough-and-tumble North.

Our Roster Reset series will rank each team by the strength of their roster.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers


Why they sit above the rest: There's no ceiling with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm. January's playoff loss to Baltimore would have been a different contest with a healthy Le'Veon Bell, who gives the Steelers one of the game's most dangerous runners. With Bell facing a three-game suspension to start the season, the newly added DeAngelo Williams should work out better than last year's LeGarrette Blount experiment.

Pittsburgh's aging defense needs help. Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor have both retired. Brett Keisel is also out the door. While the ageless James Harrison returns, he can't make up for the sudden retirement of Jason Worilds. Pittsburgh will eye the draft for pass-rushing help.

Steelers' moves
  Re-signings Arrivals Departures
  WR Darrius Heyward-Bey RB DeAngelo Williams OLB Jason Worilds
  TE Matt Spaeth   CB Ike Taylor
  OLB James Harrison   S Troy Polamalu
  DE Clifton Geathers   CB Brice McCain
  OLB James Harrison   DE Brett Keisel
      WR Lance Moore

What's next:


» Rebuild the secondary: The Steelers have lost a combined 1,595 snaps from last season with the departures of Polamalu, Taylor and Brice McCain. Drafting a cornerback early makes plenty of sense for a squad with paper-thin depth behind William Gay. Cortez Allen has been a mess. Polamalu is irreplaceable, but finding help at safety is a must unless the front office believes young Shamarko Thomas can make the leap.

» Fill the Worilds void: Harrison's return helps, but the Steelers are a candidate to add another outside linebacker alongside Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones. In his latest mock, NFL Media's Lance Zierlein sees Pittsburgh landing Kentucky's Bud Dupree.

» Add a playmaking tight end: Matt Spaeth returns, but it's time to develop a pass-catching weapon behind Heath Miller. Another X-factor at the position would make this Steelers attack an absolute headache to stop.

2. Baltimore Ravens


Holding their ground: The loss of Torrey Smith leaves Baltimore vulnerable at the wide receiver position. Need also exists at cornerback, safety, tight end and running back, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has a whopping 10 draft picks at his disposal. History tells us the Ravens know how to solve their own problems.

The most concerning "departure" is the loss of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who helped Joe Flacco to his finest season yet. Marc Trestman is a strong hire as Kubiak's replacement and should continue to milk the most out of Baltimore's durable quarterback.

The Ravens could travel multiple paths in the first round of the draft, but in a pinch, look for Newsome to lean toward defense.

Ravens' moves
  Re-signings Arrivals Departures
  DT Chris Canty S Kendrick Lewis OLB Pernell McPhee
  RB Justin Forsett QB Matt Schaub TE Owen Daniels
      WR Jacoby Jones
      WR Torrey Smith
      WR Bernard Pierce
      DT Haloti Ngata
      OL Gino Gradkowski

What's next:


» Draft a wideout: "We do not absolutely need a wide receiver," owner Steve Bisciotti said this month. Nonsense. Torrey Smith is gone and Steve Smith turns 36 in May. The Ravens will mine an excellent draft class for help.

» More cover men: The Ravens have done plenty of homework on draft-eligible corners. This wouldn't be such a need if Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith could stay in one piece, but the duo never played a game together at full health in 2014. The team believes in Terrence Brooks, but Baltimore could use another stud here.

» Help in the backfield: What happens if Georgia's Todd Gurley falls to Baltimore at No. 26 overall? The Ravens are a solid bet to nab another runner somewhere in the draft to deepen a backfield led by 29-year-old Justin Forsett. Lorenzo Taliaferro showed flashes as a rookie, but that shouldn't stop Baltimore from taking their pick among a good class of backs.

3. Cincinnati Bengals


Playoff window closing?: Despite another ghastly playoff collapse, the Bengals still house one of the AFC's more talented rosters. In many ways, they made strides last season -- their December trouncing of the Broncos comes to mind -- but can Cincinnati be trusted to take the next step in 2015?

My issue with the Bengals: They have the vibe of a risk-averse organization perfectly content with the ceiling that's defined them in recent seasons. It starts at quarterback, where the team has committed long-term to Andy Dalton, a wholly imperfect field general who crumbles when the clock strikes January. Why not doggedly pursue competition at the most important position in sports?

Cincy's additions -- A.J. Hawk, Michael Johnson and Pat Sims -- bring depth to the defense, while their losses -- Taylor Mays and Terence Newman -- can be addressed through the draft. Again, talent alone makes the Bengals a logical threat for another postseason berth, but the final result is bound to mirror the horror show of the past four seasons.

Bengals' moves
  Re-signings Arrivals Departures
  G Clint Boling CB Brandon Ghee S Taylor Mays
  DT Devon Still LB A.J. Hawk CB Terence Newman
  K Mike Nugent DE Michael Johnson  
  ILB Rey Maualuga DT Pat Sims  
  RB Cedric Peerman WR Denarius Moore  
  WR Brandon Tate    

What's next:


» Rebuild the defensive line: Posting a league-worst 20 sacks last season, the Bengals must find pass-rushing help in the draft. Bringing back Michael Johnson helps, but Cincy's front seven hasn't been the same since Geno Atkins tore up his knee two seasons ago. NFL Media's Charles Davis might be right in pegging Oregon defensive tackle Arik Armstead to the Bengals at No. 21 overall.

» O-line help a must: With tackle Andrew Whitworth entering his age 34 season, the Bengals must address this position high in the draft. We could see the front office spending multiple picks on line depth to fortify an attack that wants to run the ball first.

» Tight end depth: While the Bengals haven't ruled out re-signing Jermaine Gresham, Cincy has displayed zero urgency to bring back a player who Marvin Lewis called a man of "many moods." It's not a strong draft class at tight end, but the offense could use a body to line up alongside Tyler Eifert.

4. Cleveland Browns


Out of the cellar?: What a bizarre season for the Browns. Cleveland went from darlings to dunces, sitting atop the AFC North at 6-3 in early November before a total meltdown at the quarterback position led to a 1-6 record down the stretch. Now the team is back where it started, feeling around in the dark for a franchise signal-caller.

Brian Hoyer's out, Josh McCown is in, but the Browns aren't done under center. While Johnny Manziel underwent rehab, general manager Ray Farmer tried twice to trade for Sam Bradford. Now a legitimate candidate to trade up for Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Cleveland has made it clear they will do anything to land a functional passer.

Hope for brighter days channels through Mike Pettine's defense. After adding lineman Randy Starks and productive corner Tramon Williams, the Browns aren't the train wreck most claim them to be, but the narrative won't change until they find stability under center.

Browns' moves
  Re-signings Arrivals Departures
  P Spencer Lanning QB Josh McCown QB Brian Hoyer
  NT John Hughes WR Dwayne Bowe TE Jordan Cameron
  RB Shaun Draughn WR Brian Hartline OLB Jabaal Sheard
  WR Marlon Moore DT Randy Starks CB Buster Skrine
  OG Ryan Seymour CB Tramon Williams DT Ahtyba Rubin
    TE Rob Housler  

What's next:


» More weapons on offense: The Browns ignored the receiver position in last year's draft, but they can't afford to pass on a top prospect at No. 12 or No. 19 overall. Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline won't get it done alone. Signing Rob Housler helps, but the Browns must also develop a playmaking tight end after losing Jordan Cameron.

» Pass rushers: Barkevious Mingo has failed to live up to his first-round pedigree, but the Browns hope he'll be a different player when healthy in 2015. After losing the versatile Jabaal Sheard to New England, Pettine is still searching for his beloved "bitch-kitty" pass rusher, making the Browns a candidate to add an outside linebacker in the draft.

» The quarterback quest continues: Cleveland's reported interest in Mariota makes sense after hiring his passing coach, Kevin O'Connell, as their quarterbacks aide. It's clear the Browns aren't counting on Manziel, so swinging a deal for Mariota remains a real possibility.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the latest moves and debates if Michael Bennett should change his tune on Jimmy Graham. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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