The Pro Football Notebook

April 20, 2010 11:24 AM

Spring Overview: AFC North

The AFC North already had one of the hottest emerging rivalries in the game last year with Pittsburgh and Baltimore finding their animosity heightened by a conference championship showdown. Then Cincinnati jumped into the picture and stole the division title, promising even more intensity to a division that offers a lot of potential for bad blood in all matchups.

Remember that moment in the 2008 Super Bowl when Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for a victory that gave Pittsburgh it's sixth Super Bowl title? Must seem like ages ago for both players. Big Ben was cleared of sexual assault charges, but as of this writing he may not escape discipline from his team and the league. Holmes was traded to the Jets and then suspended in a 24-hour timespan. How the might have fallen. On the field, the Steelers brought Antwaan

Randle-El back into the fold to be a supporting receiver and return kicks, a role he's much better suited for than the primary one he tried to fill in Washington.

Baltimore slipped from 11-5 in '08 to nine wins last year, but in many ways they impressed me more in 2009. A lot of close games went against them. Furthermore, the 2008 run was one of those "out-of-nowhere" years that happen every year now in the NFL. They are just as often followed by a quick return to obscurity. The fact the Ravens kept it going and made it back to the postseason suggest an organization on sound and consistent footing. They acquired Anquan Boldin from the Cardinals to be a target for Joe Flacco and juice up the passing game.

Cincinnati is the defending champ, but the way they played down the stretch and in a playoff loss to the Jets make it hard to accord them any spring status ahead of their two main rivals. They kept the two free agent lineman they needed

to, in defensive end Frostee Rucker and guard Bobbie Williams. Cleveland has been active at the quarterback position. They cut Derek Anderson, traded for Seneca Wallace and are now talking about trading up in the draft to get Sam Bradford. Which is a lot of attention to give one position when the team is porous across the board

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