The AFC North has just one team still alive in the postseason, but it’s a busy time of year around the NFL in general, and in the division in particular. The Cleveland Browns have generated their fair share of headlines in the past few days as the front office and offensive coaching staffs have been fully revamped. But what have the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens been up to this week? Here are the top headlines, reports and rumors.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are gearing up to host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Sunday’s Divisional Round of the playoffs. But there are already talks of what may lie ahead for the Steelers, post-postseason. Namely: What the future holds for top Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell, who played the 2017 season on a $12.12 million franchise tag, isn’t too keen on being tagged a second time in 2018, with Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman noting that Bell has even put retirement on the table should the Steelers make the move again this year. Bell, though, quickly walked his statements back on social media, insisting that the Super Bowl is the biggest thing on his mind at the moment, something that the initial interviewer, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, quickly corroborated. Still, it’s been a drama-laced 12 months for the Steelers.
Also: With the Jaguars coming to town and the Steelers looking for revenge for their Week 5 30-9 home loss to them, a huge key to a win will be to be the healthier team on the field. The good news is that starting cornerback Artie Burns looks on track to play after hyperextending his knee in practice earlier in the week. However, starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt is managing an elbow injury, while nose tackle Javon Hargrave sat out on Thursday with a back injury. Both will need to be monitored closely in the run up to Sunday’s contest.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were among the teams needing to make coaching additions following the end of the 2017 season, as defensive coordinator Dean Pees retired upon its close. Though there was chatter that former coordinator Chuck Pagano, recently released of his duties as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, could make his way back to Baltimore, the Ravens instead chose to hire from within. Evan Mazza from Baltimore Beatdown reports on Don “Wink” Martindale’s promotion from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, while Logan Levy presents three questions which Martindale will need to answer in 2018.
Also: Levy believes that the Ravens would not be spectators to January football if they had just one thing: a play-making, pass-catching tight end, one of the sort Baltimore used to boast during the healthy days of Dennis Pitta. And the position should be an even bigger priority this offseason, whether via free agency, the draft or both, with Vasilis Lericos reporting that veteran Benjamin Watson, who spent 2017 with the Ravens, is thinking of retiring from football this year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Though Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis received a surprising two-year deal to remain on the job, coordinator and other assistant jobs have needed filling in recent days. Cincy Jungle’s Jason Marcum has a handy Bengals assistant coaches tracker you can follow to make sense of the interviews and hires.
Among the more notable additions to the staff have been Teryl Austin, who will serve as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator moving forward, and Frank Pollack, who will coach the offensive line. John Sheeran looks at what Pollack brings to the Bengals after taking over for Paul Alexander, who was Cincinnati’s offensive line coach for nearly 25 years, while Patrick Judis gives his seven biggest takeaways from Austin’s Thursday introductory press conference.