The AFC North has been known for its bruising, shutdown defense, as exemplified by the top two teams in the division. But maybe not anymore.
ESPN.coms Jamison Hensley looks at the stats and the performances thus far this season and proposes that were seeing a rapid culture shift.
Defense no longer reigns supreme in this division, he writes. Two of the NFL's best defenses over the past decade, the Steelers and the Ravens, are performing as well as replacement referees this season.
In the league rankings, the Ravens are No. 27 in defensive yardage, and the Steelers No. 18 in points allowed.
It's a football culture shock to see one of these defenses struggling, Hensley writes. It's mind-boggling that both can't get to the quarterback and can't keep offenses out of the end zone in the same year.
Both defenses have been missing key components. The Ravens are without reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, and the Steelers havent had linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu.
We are just three games into the season, so maybe they can back into the defenses so feared throughout the league. The Ravens Ray Lewis has said as much.
"When people talk about our defense, whatever they want to say at the beginning of the year, we always say find us at the end of the year because you know where we're going to be," he said.
And Steelers safety Ryan Clark said the defense just isnt carrying out coordinator Dick LeBeaus schemes correctly.
It's not that guys aren't talented enough, Clark said, we're not fitting the defense like Coach LeBeau wants us to do."
Maybe that is the case, and soon well see the Steelers and Ravens again harassing opposing quarterbacks as were accustomed to seeing. However, three weeks is a fair sample size, and this just could be what these defenses have become.