After a long weekend spent in fabulous Las Vegas, I have to say that I am sufficiently sleep deprived and definitely dehydrated. I took an extra day to try to clear my mind, and from this point forward The Daily Traub will be putting out a post a day at the minimum. I hope this satisfies my readers after what must have been a very stressful time without my writing. Our next stop on the NFL Division team needs takes us to the AFC North.
Watch this, I think it makes for a good segue (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSLlZh9yelk).
Pittsburgh Steelers–My Dad’s second favorite team, if not his favorite team. Since his whole family is from the Steel City I can’t blame him. The Steelers were absolutely ravaged by injuries, and the lack of depth showed against the Denver Tebow’s in the first round of the playoffs. The Steelers are a talented team, but they are getting old. Their offensive line needs to be reworked along with their cornerbacks. But they have more issues than this, James Harrison is 33, James Farrior is 37, Brett Keisel is 33, and Casey Hampton is 34; for those of you playing at home that’s four starters over the age of 33. Harrison and Keisel will most likely play another two years, but it is hard to imagine Farrior and Hampton playing much longer. As the Steelers run a 3-4, the nose tackle is a crucial part of that defense, and so are the middle linebackers. They need to find another meat and potatoes tackle to put in the middle that won’t mind eating up space. The Steelers have a great middle linebacker in Lawrence Timmons, and they need to utilize the draft to find another one to pair with him, once Farrior retires. On top of this, they have two cornerbacks that are far from elite. They need to find a true number one corner, but with the other issues present on their team at offensive line and middle linebacker, they will not find a number one corner through the draft that late. The Steelers offensive line skill or age is not the main issue, it is their inability to stay healthy. For my money, in order to protect Ben Roethlisberger, they need to upgrade at offensive guard; he can avoid pressure, but he can’t do it forever. In summation, this injury prone old team is one that could struggle in upcoming seasons with a changing of the guard, so to speak. They need to address offensive guard, nose tackle, and middle linebacker as soon as possible, and hope that their cornerback play can improve or add a free agent.
Cincinnati Bengals–They are my pick as the surprise team of the year, hands down. I figured this team would be dead in the water without Carson Palmer and I gave Andy Dalton no respect, but he came in a proved me absolutely wrong. This is a team that when I look at their roster, I like more and more. They have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball and have some college players that I loved watching (Brandon Tate, Taylor Mays, and A.J. Green, to name a few). Their offensive line only gave up 25 sacks, which was good enough for fourth in the NFL (nfl.com stats). When it comes to team needs though, they need a safety to start next to Reggie Nelson, since Mays never really caught on to the new scheme after being acquired in a trade. With Nate Clements getting older, it would be best to add a young corner to play in the nickel package for now, and then shift him outside to start with Leon Hall once Clements is gone. They have a lot of free agents coming up and it will be crucial to resign guys like Manny Lawson, Nelson and Benson. But if they can’t resign Lawson, look for them to draft another outside linebacker. To keep their success rolling, they will need to have a good offseason and keep their team together.
Baltimore Ravens–Their defense is always great year in and year out, and that is why they are yet again in the AFC Championship game. While Joe Flacco plays like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the defense keeps running like a well-oiled machine. They are starting to get older on that side of the ball though, much like the Steelers, and they need to start looking to upgrade now. They should look for a more dominant defensive end than Cory Redding to help out Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs on pass rushing downs. Along with this, their center Matt Birk is a 35-year-old free agent, and they might need to replace him. They have key free agents like Ray Rice that will be resigned, but an older guy like Birk will most likely walk. An heir apparent middle linebacker to replace Ray Lewis is also necessary, and it would be beneficial for the young guy (whomever it may be) to learn from one of the best of all time. For a team like Baltimore, they need to get younger at certain positions in order to keep success alive, much like their arch-rival Steelers. Look for a new center, new defensive end and a young middle linebacker to be in the fold next season.
Cleveland Browns–Not only is this a bad team, but they are surrounded by three playoff teams in their division. It is not a good time to be a Browns fan. But, this is what happens when a player from your team is on the Madden Cover (NEVER, EVER, let this happen under ANY circumstances, pay EA Sports to not use them if you have to. Read this and you’ll believe me, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madden_NFL#Madden_Curse). To try to pick out the three most important team needs for the Browns would be ridiculous and futile, like the Colts, they are in utter disarray. So for the Browns, I’m going to list three positions where they DON’T have needs, otherwise we’ll be here all night trying to figure it all out. They do not need a middle linebacker, a number one corner or a left tackle. When healthy Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the game, at middle linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson is one of the leading tacklers in the NFL every year. And finally, Joe Haden at corner, was drafted in the first round just two years ago and they will let him continue to develop. For them, if I’m picking at number four, I trade down and acquire more picks, they have too many holes and drafting a quarterback won’t fix all their problems. On top of needing a quarterback, they need a running back, number one receiver, two outside linebackers, etc. This team is a mess, and the only thing they have to determine is if they think Robert Griffin III is the answer for them at quarterback. If they believe he is, then they should draft him and hope to make great draft picks in later rounds. And if he isn’t then they need to trade down and get more picks; they cannot possibly afford to reach on a player with such a high pick and so many problems.