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AFC North Roundup: August 31, 2017

With the NFL season starting in one week and the deadline to reduce rosters to 53 players on Saturday, the AFC North is a very busy place during a very busy time. Here’s the latest around the division.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night, the 2017 preseason comes to an end. On Saturday, all teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players. Next Thursday marks the very first game of the 2017 regular season. It’s a busy time of year in the NFL, and thus it has been a hectic few days for the Cleveland Browns’ AFC North counterparts. Here’s the biggest news of the week for the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is no stranger to the NFL’s disciplinary procedures, having accrued quite the history of fines and suspensions due to repeated breaking of on-field rules. The latest was a five-game suspension, since reduced to three, for his hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in Week 2 of the preseason.

But the punishment and crime are both worthy of being questioned. Cincy Jungle’s John Acree breaks down just why Burfict’s latest suspension—and the league’s justifications for it—do not make sense.

Also: Rebecca Toback predicts what the Bengals’ 53-man roster will look like once cuts come down on Saturday. NFLPA president and offensive lineman Eric Winston are among her projected cuts.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steelers made roster moves this week to help bolster two of their weakest position groups, first by trading for San Francisco 49ers tight end Vance McDonald and then picking up former Browns cornerback Joe Haden following his release from Cleveland on Wednesday. Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman predicts the players who could lose their roster spots because of these two additions.

Also: In early August, the Steelers extended the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin, keeping him in Pittsburgh through the 2020 season. And on Thursday, they locked down general manager Kevin Colbert to a two-year extension of his own, which also runs through 2020, writes Hartman.

Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is one step closer to returning to in-game action after resting most of the summer with a back injury. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed this week that Flacco has recently started throwing the football again, though there remains no timetable for when he will be fully cleared to resume football activities, let alone play in a game.

But is it time to start thinking about the Ravens’ life without Flacco? Baltimore Beatdown’s Tyler Jackson takes on that task and tries to see what the future holds at the Ravens’ quarterback position.

Also: The Ravens have given a contract extension to John Harbaugh, adding one year to the deal that was set to expire after the 2018 season. Logan Levy reports that the head coach received just a one-year extension because that was all he was seeking; this new deal runs through the end of the 2019 season.