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Pittsburgh Steelers triplets get spotlight on All-AFC North Team

When it comes to highlighting top NFL talent, league-wide evaluations are the norm -- meaning some of the better players in each division are often overlooked. With his divisional all-star series, Dave Dameshek will be taking a deeper dive into the NFL's elite, putting together the best squad possible from each division -- continuing with the All-AFC North Team below.

For additional analysis on this topic -- and a whole lot more -- listen to The Dave Dameshek Football Program.


Joe Flacco has the January bona fides, but Big Ben still casts the biggest shadow in the division. One interesting intersection between Roethlisberger and Flacco: Both are now 10-5 in the postseason.

The true value of the young, do-it-all runner (... and pass catcher ... and blocker) wasn't fully apparent to Steelers fans until they watched the Pittsburgh offense sputter in the playoffs without him.

Being both a stats machine and a human highlight film is stunning stuff from the diminutive former sixth-round pick, who followed up a sublime 2013 (110 rec, 1,499 yards) with one of the five greatest WR seasons in NFL history (129 rec, 1,698 yards, 13 TDs).

Wide receiver: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

As it is, he's perennially among the top producers at his position. Imagine what he'd do if he played with a QB who could deliver him the ball downfield.

Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Another season like he had last year oughta put the finishing touches on his Hall of Fame résumé.

While he's no longer the devastating blocker he was in his prime, Miller still handles both of the position's primary responsibilities about as well as anyone in the league.

A few in-the-know types have told me they consider Thomas more steady than spectacular, but the five-time first-team All-Pro is undoubtedly the best of the bunch in the AFC North.

The Bengals' regular presence in the playoff mix the last few seasons is owed to the ripening of several offensive linemen they've drafted over the last decade. The Wisconsin product is perhaps the best of that group.

Some swoon too hard for Pouncey's ability to get to a defense's second level with rare speed -- I mean really, how often does this truly come into play week-to-week? -- but the athletic specimen was terrific in 2014 ... and is still just 25.

Generally regarded as one of the best right guards in the business, Yanda was key to Justin Forsett's 2014 breakout. Now the question is whether Yanda will break out of Baltimore after his current contract expires following this season.

While his post-draft tweets indicate this is his final year in Cincy (where first- and second-round picks were spent on tackles), this mountainous human's play is still at a peak.


The Ravens were able to deal away longtime defensive centerpiece Haloti Ngata because of how promising this rookie Seminole looked last season (along with sophomore Brandon Williams).

Defensive tackle: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

Even among his super-sized weight-lifting peers, Atkins has unusual strength ... and is plenty athletic, too. Now two seasons removed from ACL surgery, look for him to get back to his dominant 2012 form.

As was typical of many players in former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's scheme, Heyward took a couple years to find his way. Over the last two seasons, however, he's been a rock for a unit in transition.

Outside linebacker: Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens

Two years later, that whole fax thing is still weird -- and is still paying off for the Ravens, who got a franchise-record 17 sacks out of the 2014 All-Pro.

One of the Steelers' best, most consistent defensive performers over the last half decade. Wait ... did I type, "One of the Steelers' best ..."? I meant, "One of the NFL's best ..."

Inside linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens

As the Reed v. Polamalu debate fades into history, the first round of Mosley v. Shazier goes decisively to the Ravens' 2014 rookie star.

Outside linebacker: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

He's recorded double-digit sacks in six of his dozen pro seasons, including an average of 11 over the last two. In other words, he's not done yet.

Haden taking his rightful place among the NFL's best corners is old news. With former Packer Tramon Williams and the highly pedigreed Justin Gilbert also in the mix, the Browns might have the league's best group at the position.

In spite of injuries and a slow start to his pro career, Smith has nonetheless emerged as the physical shutdown corner Ozzie Newsome had in mind when he drafted the Colorado product in the first round of 2011. How confident are the Ravens in Smith? Four years, $48 million confident.

He gets attention because of his mouth and vicious hits, but he's also been a consistent playmaker at all three of his NFL stops. Whitner made 106 tackles for Mike Pettine's bunch last year.

Alright, so neither Whitner nor this undrafted Florida intimidator will be of much use in coverage, but fair's fair: They're the two best safeties in the division. (Sorry, Tashaun Gipson, Reggie Nelson, Matt Elam and Mike Mitchell -- and better luck this year.) Hill, who's extremely effective on the field, just needs to stay out of trouble off it.


With Jacoby Jones now in San Diego, this comes down to Brown and Pacman Jones. Let's go with the guy who wears the bumblebee uniform over the tiger-striped one.

NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger says Tucker might go down as the best placekicker ever.

His 43.3 net punting average was tops in the NFL last season.

Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek.

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