Stillers End Up in AFC North Division
The NFL owners approved the new realignment plan, set to occur for the '02 season. The Stillers will be in the AFC North Division, joining Cinci, Cleveland, and Baltimore.
This suits me fine. Bear in mind, that I frankly don't care "how good" (or lousy) the other divisional foes are right now. Some fans of ANY team will either be joyous, or stark raving mad, because of this realignment, but I actually fall in the middle of that continuum. With the way free agency changes the face of many teams from year to year, I really don't care how good, or how poor, any of our divisional foes are at present. It wasn't very long ago that St. Louis was the laughingstock of the NFL. Then guys named Warner and Faulk arrived there, and voila -- they won a Super Bowl and are a feared team. Although Cinci and Cleveland have had their struggles, either could hit the jackpot with good drafting &/or good FA pickups, and quickly be a playoff contender. Baltimore? Who knows what they'll be like in '02 and beyond. Ray Lewis could tear an ACL this summer and never be the same. A few key vets could retire or move on in free agency. And because NFL teams don't have their own farm teams (like the NHL and MLB do), any team can rise or fall that quickly with either a single injury or a key pickup.
The one thing I do like about this realignment is that all divisional foes are within an easy driving distance of Pittsburgh. I personally do not currently live in the 'Burgh, but I think it's great that any Stiller fan in the Pgh. area can easily drive to Cinci, Clev, or Baltimore for a game.
The best thing the Stillers can do is to mind their own house, and get their ship afloat and moving in the right direction. Having the defending SB champs in the division should at least provide some motivation to push toward improvement. I'm still waiting for the dust to settle on our off-season improvements, or lack thereof. June 1st will be a critical date for cuts all over the league, consequently followed by some shrewd acquisition of said "cutt-ees". Admittedly, I've been underwhelmed at our off season "progress". We shot our wad on the same tubby, overweight, slopoke RB who has failed to move the ball well against the stingy defenses in this league. The rest of our wad was blown on a lifelong guard who will now start at center, replacing a sure Hall of Famer who was cut. Our 3rd biggest move was to cut Kirkland and replace him with Mike Jones, who is certainly far more cap-friendly but not the run-stuffing LB that Kirk was. Our fourth biggest move was to sign a FS, even though our starter at FS the vast majority of '00 had a rock solid season and is back for '01. Our 5th biggest move was to ensure that we will cut our 2nd best RB, and BEST ALL-AROUND RB, come June 1st. So, despite competent hirings at OL Coach and QB Coach (overcoming 25 years of stubborn stupidity), and a solid FA pickup in ILB Mike Jones, I don't see where this team has been improved at all.