AFC North: Ultimate Roster


The FanSided Network is putting together an all-star roster for each division and the braintrust has put me in charge of the AFC North. (Apparently, they are that desperate).

I tried my best to put my homerism aside and compile the division’s best roster. On offense, I went with three wideouts and only one running back. On defense, I went with a 3-4 since the Bengals are the only 4-3 team (it also squeezed out some Bengals players). I also wrote a few comments when I felt like it.  Here’s the list:

Offense

LT:  Joe Thomas, Cleveland – You could argue Andrew Whitworth, but Thomas carries a little more clout.

LG:  Eric Steinbach, Cleveland – Yes, Cleveland, your team might be pretty bad, but the left side of the line is good.

C:  Matt Birk, Baltimore

RG:  Bobbie Williams, Cincinnati

RT:  Michael Oher, Baltimore

WR:  Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati

WR:  Anquan Boldin, Baltimore

Slot:  Hines Ward, Pittsburgh – He’s not all that fast, but Ward has excellent hands and is a ferocious blocker.

TE: Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

QB:  Carson Palmer, Cincinnati – Yes, Roethlisberger has more playoff wins and is a two-time Super Bowl champion, but his supporting cast has been significantly better. Plus, playing quarterback requires good sense off the field. And Big Ben doesn’t have any of that. At all.

RB:  Ray Rice, Baltimore – Cedric Benson is probably better between the tackles, but Rice excels as a receiver as well

 Defense

DE:  Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh

NT:  Shaun Rogers, Cleveland – His effort is questionable at times, but he’s a monster when motivated

DE:  Haloti Ngata, Baltimore

 LB:  James Harrison, Pittsburgh

LB:  Ray Lewis, Baltimore

LB:  Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati

LB:  Lamar Woodley, Pittsburgh

 CB:  Leon Hall, Cincinnati

CB:  Jonathan Joseph, Cincinnati

FS:  Ed Reed, Baltimore

SS:  Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh – Not a true strong safety, but he’s too talented (when healthy) to leave off the list

KR:  Josh Cribbs, Cleveland – Easily the best player on Cleveland’s entire team

PR:   Josh Cribbs, Cleveland

K:  Shayne Graham, Baltimore – Great at unimportant field goals. Pretty awful in the clutch.

P:  Kevin Huber, Cincinnati – Impressive average of 49 yards per punt last year.

So there it is. Let me know what you think. Unless, of course, you’re a Steelers fan. In that case, I don’t care.

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  • Ed

    I think Ben Grubbs is a pro bowl caliber left guard. Often times players without big names get left out.

  • Alex

    1. what do you mean Polamalu isn’t a true strong safety? the differences between free and strong have become increasingly blurred in recent years, with teams looking for safeties like Reed, Polamalu, etc. and not Roy Williams or Adam Archuletta.

    2. Shayne Graham plays for Baltimore now? and just saying, Jeff Reed is beyond clutch.

    3. Ngata doesn’t actually play nose tackle, but plays on the end because he’s freakishly athletic. you could switch him with shaun rogers, although i don’t necessarily agree with that choice, I would prefer his former college teammate.

    4. Rey Maualuga? Really? hasn’t done anything yet. maybe next year. maybe.

    5. Good job on the list. I thought for the most part it was fair and balanced.

    P.S. Joe Flacco has more playoff wins than Carson Palmer and is an upstanding citizen. just sayin :P

    • jtrain

      well in the 3-4 the two sides of the field are basically mirrors in the big scheme so the ss does most of the things that a fs does and vice versa. makes things much easier so calling polamalu not a true ss makes no sense

  • Barry D

    Interesting bit of fiction (i.e. an imaginary concept). Let me point out a non-fictional statistic.
    Super Bowl Wins:
    Pittsburgh – 6 (that’s a half dozen, bro)
    Baltimore – 2
    Cincy – Zip
    Cleveland – I’m thinkin of a number between zero and zero!)

  • Alex

    although the colts DID win a championship while still in baltimore, it’s still considered to be with the indianapolis colts. so just one for Bmore

    • Barry D

      Yeah, correct, although the city of Baltimore can claim 2 titles. Perhaps I was just being kind, although I know not why ?

      • Ed

        Maybe some of those 1970′s steroids are starting to leave your system.

  • Paul D

    Just as you are a Bungles fan, this Steelers fan could care less about your opinion.

  • Linc

    Add more Steelers and it will be a truly ultimate roster.

  • JunoJen

    Barry D – You are a genius!

  • Bert G.

    Not sure I agree completely with your list. I think for the most part it is a fair balance between the teams. A couple of changes I would make.

    QB- this is suppose to be an ultimate NFC North team, not who can behave off the field. I would choose Big Ben over Palmer. He would have more time to make more things happen with this line.

    NT- Casey Hampton is regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Ngata is younger and good, but Hampton is great, the perfect NT for a 3-4.

  • JR

    Flacco is superior to Palmer. Palmer hasn’t really done anything and he’s always had the best receivers. With Ocho Cinco AND Hoosyourmama, AND C Henry its hard to argue Ben had a better supporting cast. I would say Palmers had the best supporting cast and worst career among Rapelessberger and Flacco. Without Ocho and Hoos, Palmer would be worthless

  • Josh

    Not too bad except for a few things, most of which have already been pointed out.

    1. How exactly is Polamalu not a true SS? I don’t see any reasoning behind it?

    2. Rogers doesn’t deserve to be on the list. He’s lazy and doesn’t put forth enough effort.

    3. Roethlisberger is easily the best QB in the AFC North. Off field issues does not play a role in choosing an All-Star team. Yes, Ben’s had the better defense but Palmer has always had the better offense. Although I think he’s a bit overrated, I would argue that even Flacco is a better QB than Palmers at this point.

    4. Jeff Reed is a much better kicker than Shayne Graham.

    5. Rey Maualuga hasn’t done enough to be put ahead of some of the veterans in the AFC North yet.

  • Mike

    how could you possibly pick carson over ben. i dont care what happens off the field, he still has 2 superbowl rings and palmer doesnt even have a playoff win. a few years ago i would agree but now ben is the better overall QB in ever single catagory. you are officially an idiot!

  • techguy

    You guys arguing about Carson’s supporting cast are missing the point entirely. You all seems to forget that his “skills” have been tied to having a front line, which he didn’t have 2006-2008… the Eric Ghuichic era.

    Ben thrives in the scramble, but he gets sacked too much because he doesn’t know when to give up on a play. Flacco is solid all the way around. But you SteelHeads have forgotten that when he has time from the O-line, Carson can carve up a lot of defenses. Take his lifetime record against the Ravens as proof.

    I would have been tempted to take Flacco in this list, but I wouldn’t argue with Carson edging him either. With the O-line having been together for a full year and Carson’s left hand fixed, the AFCN will get reacquainted with those skills you thought he lost but actually just didn’t have time to use.

  • Alex

    the point is that Palmer hasn’t had an above average year since 07. outside of 05-06 where he was up there with anybody, he has been mediocre at best. to say he hasn’t had a good supporting cast on offense is preposterous. until this past year he has had two pro bowl receivers that complemented each other perfectly, an offense that played to his strengths and a good ground game to support him. one thing you’re correct about somewhat is the line play. the only years he had an exceptional line were 05 and 06, then eric steinbach left and levi jones’ play began to deteriorate. so you’re right in that he has only played well when he was behind an exceptional Oline, although that would be a bit harsh.

    in the same conversation, Flacco has an exceptional, young, talented offensive line to work with, and a great running game. if we’re valuing the quarterback who has done the most with the least, it would probably be Ben Roethlisberger. (doesn’t necessarily mean i like him. his off field behavior disgusts me.)

  • Football Fann

    yeah, Carson had Ocho and Housh with Chris Henry for a while, with a good o-line and a good RB. So that isnt enough support for him? He hasnt even won a playoff game for Christ sake. And last season their defense was good and they got beat soundly by the Jets, and he didnt play well last season. I would probably take Ben and Flacco over him.

  • techguy

    Really? You are going to count against him a game where Carson got in a total of two plays before his knee got Kimo’ed? If Carson doesn’t get headhunted in that game, he would have gotten that win you mock him for not having.

    Today’s history lesson: in 2005, he had the full supporting cast but KVO steelered him. In 2006, the O-line came undone and was not good through 2008. Last year the line finally came together again, just in time for Chris Henry to suffer a broken wrist, breaking the passing game too because Coles had lost it, Caldwell disappeared and Ochocinco was routinely double- and triple-teamed.

    2010 will be Carson’s first shot at a full supporting cast to truly judge what he can do in five years. When Carson has time from the line — which he hasn’t had in a long time — he is better than Ben. If you want to say that Ben is better because he can create plays, then fine, make that argument. But to over-simplify things like that makes you sound weak.

  • Football Fann

    Ok fair enough, but you are speculating at best to “assume” that the Bengals would have beat the Steelers in the playoffs. Experience in the playoffs is valuable and they had none.

    Ben or Ben apologists doesn’t use a poor O-line as an excuse the way you do, so what does that say about each QB’s capabilities?

    Too many excuses on the other wide receivers you mentioned. A good team/qb overcomes that stuff the same way the Steelers “overcame” losing Plax to win a SB the next year.

    I don’t get how you assume that CP is better then Ben when he “has time in the pocket?”
    One can form a better argument that Ben would be even better if he had more time in the pocket (for example, put Ben behind Brady’s or Peyton’s O-Line). Conversely, put any one of those other QB’s behind Ben’s O-line and watch them crumble (based on the fact that they all assume the fetal position at the first sign of pressure, including CP).

    And yes, he is a better playmaker.

  • Alex

    I hope I don’t sound too harsh when I say this, but when use the receivers, offensive line, and defense as an excuse for a qb’s poor play, it’s kind of a red flag.

    injuries have definitely affected his production the last few years, but elite qb’s overcome that. but I don’t buy that he has had a weak supporting cast, just like i don’t buy it when so called analysts try to say that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have weak supporting casts on offense. (which is preposterous)

    But I don’t want to sound to negative, because I sincerely believe this is a very good list overall. so I just want to say kudos for putting Hines Ward up there. Many would be very spiteful towards Ward if they compiled this list. gotta give you credit for that.

  • Football Fann

    More evidence suggests “choker” than does “playmaker”. He’s a media darling and that’s why he’s gotten such a long leash from the media and his blind followers.

    “Oooohh, he’s got better ‘mechanics’ than Ben”. Ok, we see how far that’s gotten him while Ben wins “despite” his O-line.

  • techguy

    Good grief, you Steelers fans are thin-skinned. I’m not trying to run down Ben here. Your defensiveness and desperate need to trash anyone who does not play 8 games a year at Heinz field is why I have zero respect for you people.

    A poor O-line is not an excuse. It is a reality of football. Football 101: The game begins at the line. Put Manning or Brady behind a bad O-line, and you are not going to get the same results. Most QBs need a good O-line to do well. They need time to be their best.

    The same is true for Carson. When he had a solid line in 2004 & 2005, the “experts” were starting to group Carson with Manning and Brady. Starting in 2006, the pass protection declined, and so did Carson’s “skills”. But you go ahead and believe that Carson is washed up. And I’ll laugh at you when his skills magically “reappear” as the line continues to improve.

    Ben is the exception here. He is not at his best in the pocket like most QBs. He does his best work rolling out and just making crap up because the play is broken. It pisses me off sometimes. Carson is lousy at that style of play.

    Perfect example: Carson hung 314 yds passing on San Diego in Week 15 last year. A playoff team. Why? Their pass rush was underwhelming that day. He had time, and he torched them.

    Oh, and I have good reason to think that Carson could have done what Kitna couldn’t in 2006. He had just done it a month earlier. More than once I’ve told my brother (a HUGE Colts fan) that Kimo’s dirty play cost the Colts an AFC championship appearance because Carson would have beat the Steelers, but the Bengals would not have beaten the Colts that year.

  • Football Fann

    If u knew the kind of person Kimo is/was then you’d believe it wasn’t dirty

    You’re still speculating that CP would have beaten the Steelers in the playoffs (remember they ended up being SB champs and you even admit they couldn’t have beaten Indy…on that note, Ben was the main reason they beat Indy aftewards!?)

    CP has done NOTHING to be considered an “Elite” QB and be in the same conversation as Manning/Brady/Ben (every QB has a good day now and then as you mentioned he did against SD).

    Get over it dude, I’m not a Steeler fan but you’re being ridiculous as most people who posted after you agree.

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  • techguy

    I like you Fann. You crack me up. “…as most people who posted after you agree.” You do realize that you and Alex account for 100% of those people, don’t you?

    Kimo wrapped the leg and twisted. Maybe out of character, I don’t know, but he did what he did. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGcNRb5WI1g 23 sec mark. Watch his arm twist the leg.

    Did I say elite? Do a search of my posts for the word. It isn’t there. I said that the experts were saying that in 2005 & 2006, and they were. But I didn’t put that label on him. He hasn’t earned it yet. And neither has Ben. Scrappy, yes. Tough, yes. Elite, hardly. If Carson’s TWO 4000+ passing yd seasons don’t get it for him, Ben’s ONE doesn’t either.

    Isn’t speculation half the fun of sports? Neither of us knows “what might have been if…” If I had speculated at this time last year that the Bengals would sweep the Steelers and Ravens, you’d have scoffed at me for that too. And like I said, the Bengals had beaten the Steelers just a month before, so I have good reason to believe what I do.

  • Alex

    DO NOT bring that game up again. NOBODY outside of Cincinatti truly believes that Kimo did that on purpose. it is childish and a true insult to his character to keep bringing this ONE PLAY up. stop seeing only what you want to see and grow up. this is a physical game with some of the best athletes in the world and things happen. it was just bad luck. period. move on.

    on the subject of offensive line play, the argument does have some merit, but great quarterbacks do have success behind mediocre offensive lines. you can’t call that line in arizona anything above average, and Kurt Warner had incredible success the last 2 years.

    I think statwise Palmer is probably better. Playoff wins? Championships? intangibles?(on the field intangibles) Roethlisberger is better in those categories and it all goes down to what you value.

  • techguy

    Oooh, someone has a sore spot! I’m sorry that you can’t accept what he did. I’m sure you didn’t go watch the video again, but you should. It is what it is.

    (Oops, I brought it up again.)

    Fans of other teams understand that this is just the way the Steelers play. Joey Porter attacking Levi Jones from behind in Vegas. The “Heinz Ward rule”. We understand what is coming when the Steeler bus roles into town.

    What I’ve been saying this whole time is that it is tough to compare Ben and Carson because their strengths are so different. Ben is one of the best scratch play guys I’ve seen; if you ask him to stay in the pocket and be a traditional QB, he’s much more pedestrian.

    Carson is the opposite. With time in the pocket, he can be one of the better QBs in the game; when plays break down or he doesn’t get time, he’s mediocre or below. But, I have to say though, that both are good 2-minute drill guys. They are both able to play to their strengths, and both should be allowed to use it more.

    I’m not trying to label Carson elite or even great. I’m just saying that he hasn’t lost his skills like some talking heads wonder, but that the conditions he needs to succeed have not been present the last few years.

    Yes, it does come down to what you value. That’s why, if I had my pick, I’d take Drew Brees over anybody right now. 5000+ yd passer. BOILER UP!

  • Steve Krause

    This shows why the Browns and Bengals will never win at anything. Keep defending Carson as being some great QB…for the rest of his time in the NFL, you will make it easier for the Steelers to win the division. When you start going to the playoffs more than two times every 10 years I will start caring about what you think and your stupid lists. Also, Ben with all of his off field issues is better than Carson, Ray Lewis is over the hill and is done, Hampton is way better than your choice, and finally I hooked up with your mom last night.