Which AFC North team will be better in 2014, the Ravens or the Steelers?
These long-time rivals face similar situations, trying to bounce back from finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs in 2013. It was the first time that both the Steelers and Ravens missed the playoffs since 1999.
The Ravens believe the right offseason moves could make them Super Bowl contenders again. The Steelers feel the same way. Just as the Ravens plan to upgrade the talent surrounding quarterback Joe Flacco, the Steelers will continue building around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who already has two Super Bowl rings. In Baltimore and in Pittsburgh, the focus is on reloading, not rebuilding.
“We’re never going to say, ‘OK, we know we’re not a contender,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, via comments on the team’s website, steelers.com, and in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It will never be acceptable for this organization to gut it and start over. Our challenge is to compete and improve at the same time.”
However, the Steelers face crucial salary cap decisions before free agency begins March 11. Roethlisberger’s contract may have to be restructured to give the Steelers more salary cap flexibility. They would like to keep outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is about to become a free agent and will be in demand if he hits the open market. However, to keep Worilds, the Steelers may be forced to cut veteran outside linebacker, LaMarr Woodley.
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Roethlisberger will turn 32 years old March 2, three years older than Flacco, who turned 29 in January. Despite the pounding Roethlisberger has taken during his career, Colbert believes the Steelers have a large enough window to build another championship team around their franchise quarterback.
“There’s nobody we’d rather have than Ben,” Colbert said. “We realize he doesn’t have 10 years left. Hopefully, he stays healthy and we get the maximum number of years out of him. We have to make the most of those years we have left with our franchise quarterback.”
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry remains one of the most intense in football. But for both teams, finishing 8-8 in 2013 was unacceptable. The Ravens say they will do what it takes this offseason to get back to the playoffs. The Steelers are delivering the same message.