Browns defense most upgraded among AFC North competition

We've heard it all before: The Cleveland Browns always win the offseason! But this year the defense has added so much talent that it is difficult for even the most cynical among us to ignore.
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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Steelers on course to rebuild Steel Curtain

Browns fans, thou shalt not underestimate the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially on defense. The Steelers lost CB Cameron Sutton (Top 30), LB Robert Spillane (Top 70), LB Devin Bush (Top 60), former first-round pick S Terrell Edmunds (Top 40), and CB William Jackson (Top 100).

They're big names, but not necessarily stars playing in their prime last season. For 2023 they acquired four comparable starters in LB Cole Holcomb (Top 40), CB Patrick Peterson (Top 20), LB Elandon Roberts (Top 70), and SS Keanu Neal (Top 70). They also add first-round CB Joey Porter, Jr., Round 4 LB Nick Herbig, and Round 7 CB Nick Herbig.

Bush's deal with the Seahawks is only one year for $3.5 million. He seemed close to Pro Bowl level a few years ago, he did not play at that level in 2022. Injuries appear to have slowed him down.

Thus, Holcomb is a definite upgrade for the Steelers, and so is Peterson even at age 33. Joey Porter Jr. somehow slid down to the Steelers as he was projected to be drafted higher. Dang it, the NFL is always saving somebody in the draft so that the Steelers can draft them.

Overall, then, they have upgraded a young defense while letting go of some veterans on the downside of their careers. Pittsburgh's defense will be upgraded, although the whole thing depends upon T.J. Watt staying healthy next year.

They weren't the same unit when he was out with a torn biceps last season, so forget about the wise guys who say that a single defensive player cannot impact the spread by more than one point. That's not true in the case of Watt. The 2023 Steelers defense is adding up like this:

Steelers lose: CB Cameron Sutton, LB Robert Spillane, LB Devin Bush, S Terrell Edmunds, and CB William Jackson.

Steelers Get: LB Cole Holcomb, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Elandon Roberts, and SS Keanu Neal.

Steelers draft: Round 1 CB Joey Porter, Jr., Round 4 LB Nick Herbig, Round 7 CB Cory Trice Jr.

Thus, Pittsburgh lost five big names on defense, but they probably added significantly more talent than they gave up. The Steelers signed four legitimate veteran starters and drafted a first-round starter and a potential Round 4 contributor. Peterson is the old man of the group at 33 but is a legitimate star. They have star power on defense, no question.

To summarize the outlook for the AFC North, look for the Browns defense to be the most improved in the division. On the other hand, they had the AFC North's weakest defense last season, so there is quite a bit of room for improvement.

However, the Steelers also have a strong roster and should be the favorites to lead the division in least points allowed, edging out Cleveland. The Bengals will break in a new defensive secondary this season and will give up more points than last season, finishing third.

Baltimore is neglecting their defense this season, instead focusing on the happiness of their quarterback and the health of the deep ball passing attack. It just seems like the wheels are going to fall off in Baltimore this season. But don't worry, OBJ will rescue the team, so they do not need to play defense this season.

Next. AFC North wide receiver corps ranked from worst to first. AFC North wide receiver corps ranked from worst to first. dark