2014 PFF All-AFC North Team
Michael Renner reviews the top players at each position for the AFC North in the 2014 season.
2014 PFF All-AFC North Team
Up next in our division-by-division look, the AFC North.
This was one of the most competitive All-Division teams as the AFC North was filled to the brim with talented rosters. The North was the only division to send three teams to the playoffs with the Steelers taking home the title. Baltimore led the division with eight selections here while the Bengals take the low end with just three players represented.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
Highlighted by an all-time game against the Colts in Week 8, Roethlisberger put together the best season by a quarterback in the North by a comfortable margin.
Running Back: Le’Veon Bell (PIT)
Our top ranked back, Bell was superb in all three facets of the game. The Steelers back allowed just two pressures all year and broke 55 tackles on the ground along with a league 29 more through the air.
Fullback: Ryan Hewitt (CIN)
The rookie was a revelation blocking for Jeremy Hill and company. Hewitt saw his usage steadily increase as the season went along.
Tight End: Heath Miller (PIT)
Not a banner year for Miller, but his consistent work catching and blocking earns him the nod. He had an uncharacteristically high drop total (seven), but also saw his most targets (98) in the PFF era.
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green (CIN) and Antonio Brown (PIT)
Brown was the most effective receiver the league this year by almost any measure. He led the NFL in yards (1,698) and receptions (129). Green’s play was comparable when he was on the field, but injuries limited him to just 666 snaps on the season.
Tackles: Andrew Whitworth (CIN) and Ricky Wagner (BAL)
Whitworth was our second team All-Pro left tackle while Wagner was honorable mention at right tackle. Whitworth was as dominant as can be in pass protection with just nine pressures allowed while Wagner was no slouch himself with the highest pass blocking grade at the right tackle position.
Guards: Joel Bitonio (CLV) and Marshal Yanda (BAL)
These two were the starting pair for our All-Pro team making their inclusion here an easy one. Some recognition needs to go out to Kelechi Osemele, Kevin Zeitler, and John Greco who were all excellent as well in a division loaded with talented guards.
Center: Maurkice Pouncey (PIT)
After missing all of 2013, Pouncey was back to his best with a career year in 2014. The former first-round pick yielded a single sack all year and graded positive in both run and pass blocking.
Edge Defenders: Elvis Dumervil (BAL) and Terrell Suggs (BAL)
The two outside linebackers that led our top ranked pass rushing unit were only rivaled in the division by their teammate Pernell McPhee who didn’t make it due to a low snap count. Suggs was dominant once again in all facets while Dumervil put together one of the best pass rushing seasons in the NFL.
Defensive Interior: Cameron Heyward (PIT) and Haloti Ngata (BAL)
Heyward has developed into one of the best pass rushing 3-4 defensive ends collecting the second most pressures (54) of anyone at the position. Ngata was back to his old disruptive self, grading very well against both the pass and run after a couple of down seasons.
Nose Tackle: Brandon Williams (BAL)
Williams turned into the premier run stuffing nose tackle in a breakthrough Year 2. The former third-round pick notched 35 stops in 322 snaps against the run.
Linebackers: Daryl Smith (BAL) and Karlos Dansby (CLV)
A couple of veteran free agent success stories. Dansby has turned into a mercenary of sorts at inside linebacker, delivering consistently elite play for three different teams in the last three years. Smith has always been one of the best cover linebackers in the game, but graded out much better against the run in 2014 than his first season in Baltimore.
Cornerbacks: Jimmy Smith (BAL), Joe Haden (CLV) and K’Waun Williams (CLV)
Smith was one of the best in the NFL before heading to Injured Reserve. Williams was exceptional as a slot option as a rookie while Haden got back to form after a rocky start to the season.
Safeties: Donte Whitner (CLV) and Tashaun Gipson (CLV)
A very Cleveland-themed secondary for the 2014 season. Gipson had a breakthrough year playing alongside Whitner. The former undrafted free agent’s six interceptions were the second most at the position. Whitner replaced T.J. Ward admirably in his first season with the Browns grading positively against both the run and pass.
Kicker: Justin Tucker (BAL)
It wasn’t quite on par with his 2013 season, but Tucker was terrific once again with just five misses on the year with four of those coming from 50 or more yards out.
Punter: Sam Koch (BAL)
The best of a weak group, Koch led the NFL with a 42.9 yards net punting average.
Returner: Adam Jones (CIN)
Our All-Pro returner, Jones is fearless returning both kicks and punts. His 31.3 yard average was the best among kick returners with at least 20 returns.
Special Teamer: Cedric Peerman (CIN)
Not much competition for Peerman here as he was far and away the best in the division. His 16 special teams tackles were the most in the league.
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