How Do Ravens Close AFC North Talent Gap?


At last year's season-review press conference, Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti talked about how the inability to win the AFC North more consistently was the "only blemish on our resume right now as a group."

A year later, the Bengals won the division for the second time in three seasons and are headed to the playoffs for the fifth-straight time. The Steelers won the division in 2014 and are back in the playoffs after a 10-6 record last year.

The Ravens haven't won the division since their Super Bowl run in 2012.

With that success from their AFC North foes, Bisciotti was asked at Thursday what needs to happen to close the talent gap in the division.

"It's a fair question," Bisciotti said. "They were asking that in Pittsburgh when they went 8-8 two years in a row, and [the critics] said the same things – their drafts weren't top-notch, and they had too many older players. That kind of goes across the league.

"Yes, I'm concerned about it, but when I look at their rosters, I don't really think that there's a huge talent difference."

The Bengals have young playmakers like A. J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Gionvani Bernard. Their defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season. The Steelers have one of the NFL's best quarterbacks and wide receivers in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who combine to create a potent offensive attack.

But the Ravens have a talented roster of their own with Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco, future Hall of Fame receiver Steve Smith Sr. and six-time Pro Bowl defender Terrell Suggs. They were all knocked out of the season by injuries.

Bisciotti pointed to the 2012 and 2013 seasons in Pittsburgh where the Steelers finished .500 and missed the playoffs both years. They seemed to be losing ground at the time, but bounced back the next season to win the division.

Overall success is also a key piece of the equation.

The Bengals have made five-straight postseason trips, but they haven't won a playoff game since 1990. The Steelers haven't  won a playoff game since the 2010 season. The Ravens also beat the Steelers at Heinz Field in last year's postseason and have beaten the Steelers in eight of their last 11 meetings.

The Ravens have won a Super Bowl and been to two AFC championships since either division foe won a playoff game.

But success in the regular season matters, and Bisciotti has made it clear that he's not pleased with losing five straight matchups to the Bengals.

"That's a stain – Cincinnati beating us as frequently as they have recently," Bisciotti said. "I think that Cincinnati is probably being touted as the class in our division."

As part of the overall theme of the season-review press conference, Bisciotti explained that he doesn't see the Ravens as a team in need of a major overhaul to compete in the division. The Ravens are coming off a year where they had 20 players on injured reserve.

With those players back in the fold and the arrival of the No. 6 overall draft pick, the Ravens are optimistic that they can quickly turn around their fortunes in the division.

"If we get all of our players back, I think we'll close that gap," Bisciotti said. "If we have a good draft, if we do well in free agency, we can compete with them."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content