It’s finally time. After months of waiting, drafting, signing, cutting, practicing, scrimmaging and preseasoning, the 2017 NFL season is finally underway. In the AFC North, that means inter-divisional matchups for Week 1, with the Cleveland Browns playing host to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. Here are the latest happenings as the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals gear up to start their seasons on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals: Though Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is currently serving a three-game suspension to open the season, barring him from being in contact with his team, those rules don’t apply to his agent.
And Burfict’s agent put in some serious work this week, getting his client a three-year, $38.68 million extension this week. Cincy Jungle’s Jason Marcum has the timeline of the deal here, while Rebecca Toback has the financial minutia, including the detail that only $3.3 million of the deal—his signing bonus—is fully guaranteed. Burfict was set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2017 season, which is why the Bengals acted with such urgency despite Burfict’s three-game ban.
Also: Anthony Cosenza previews the Bengals’ Week 1 contest against the Baltimore Ravens, one that he thinks will both be close and “ugly at times,” but also one he believes the Bengals will win.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ injury report heading into their Week 1 contest against the Cleveland Browns has been relatively light, but, as Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman reports, a new name popped up as Questionable late in the week—starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who was also limited in Thursday’s practice. He vows to play, but if he cannot, then Arthur Moats will get the start in his stead.
Also: Hartman takes a look at the uncharacteristic whirlwind of roster action for the Steelers in the days leading up to their season opener and how these moves will improve the team this year.
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore Beatdown’s Logan Levy gives his full assessment of the Baltimore Ravens’ roster heading into the 2017 season. Some key takeaways: A return to a run-pass balance on offense, and a top-three unit on defense. Levy does note that the Ravens’ offense “will be a project all year.”
Also: Vasilis Lericos has been tasked with rounding up the Baltimore Beatdown staff predictions for Sunday’s Ravens season opener against the Bengals. A common theme among many of them is just how much the Ravens are going to rely on the leg of kicker Justin Tucker, not just in Week 1 but over the course of the 2017 season.