Let's see what's in the mailbag during conference title weekend.
Jason from New York City writes: Who do you think has more pressure on them this week: Santonio Holmes to prove the Pittsburgh Steelers wrong or the Steelers to prove they were better off without him?
James Walker: I don't know if there's more or less pressure on either, Jason. The fact that both sides are vying for a shot at Super Bowl XLV means everything worked out well for both parties. Mike Wallace is a star in the making. He had more yards (1,273) and touchdowns (10) this season than Holmes ever had in a Steelers uniform. Meanwhile, Holmes continues to make big play after big play for the New York Jets and got them this far. Everybody wins.
Eddie Cauthen from Brimingham, Ala., writes: Will Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith play this week?
Walker: Smith is listed as doubtful, so it''s unlikely. He continues to make progress and there could be a decent shot if the Steelers advance to the Super Bowl.
Chris from Notre Dame College, Ohio, writes: Since you're in the Cleveland area and my school is in Cleveland, what are the chances of you coming to my Super Bowl party if the Steelers make the Super Bowl?
Walker: I appreciate the invite, Chris. But if the Steelers make the Super Bowl, I will be in Cowboys Stadium covering the game that night. I probably should ask if you want to join me.
Nathan Scheeler from Casa Grande, Ariz., writes: I know it is a little early for draft talk. But is it easy to point out what positions are a priority for the Steelers?
Walker: Nathan, your team is in the AFC title game and you're thinking about April's NFL draft? Right off the bat I think an offensive lineman, preferably a tackle, would be a big need. Another cornerback could also be a hole depending on what the team decides to do with pending free agent Ike Taylor.
Walker: Yes. There's no question in my mind the Ravens will pay Ngata the big bucks. It's the biggest offseason priority the Ravens have this year. That defense doesn't run as well without him.
Mike from Jersey writes: What are the chances the Ravens go after CB Nnamdi Asomugha?
Walker: Virtually no chance, Jersey Mike. Right player, but not the right price. Baltimore couldn't pay Asomugha and Ngata in the same offseason.
Kovacs from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Right after Mel Kiper put A.J. Green in a Cleveland Browns uniform, Todd McShay elected Robert Quinn. Which one is a bigger need?
Walker: Wide receiver is the biggest need for the Browns, Kovacs. But as I wrote Friday, I will always hesitate to draft a receiver in the top 10, even Georgia A.J. Green. I don't care how good the prospect is. I like Clemson defensive Da'Qaun Bowers a little better right now than North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn,. But my opinion is subject to change over the next four months as I see them both go through the evaluation process.
Bob from Fayetteville, Pa., writes: How much has head coach Pat Shurmur's intent to call the offensive plays hurt the Browns' search for an offensive coordinator?
Walker: It's definitely having an impact, Bob. The biggest perk of being an offensive coordinator is the ability to call plays. If that's not there, it's not really an attractive job. On top of that, Browns president Mike Holmgren is going to be very influential on how the offense looks. So there will be a lot of cooks in that kitchen, leaving very little control for the OC.
Kory from Hillsborough, Calif., wants to know if the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals can surprise like two years ago.
Walker: It's too early to say, Kory. There are some similarities in that Cincinnati finished the season strong the year before making its surprise run. But there's no guarantee that will be the case again. Cincinnati still has to make a lot of changes and upgrades to make in the offseason. Check back on this one in the summer.
GM from Charlotte, N.C., writes: I know anything is possible in the long run, but is there any chance of Cincinnati moving to LA or some other large market?
Walker: We get this question more than you think, GM. But I just don't see it. Owner Mike Brown has perhaps the sweetest stadium deal in the entire NFL in terms of taxpayers footing the bill. The Bengals probably can't get over on another city the same way he's getting over on Cincinnati. Plus, when Bengals ownership recently offered to shorten the lease, Hamilton County refused.
Comment and complaint department
Justin from Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Interesting fact: The AFC Championship game on Sunday, January 23rd, which is also the birthday of the creator of the "Terrible Towel" Myron Cope. The towels will be waving in full force in Pittsburgh!
Walker: Interesting thought, Justin. Thanks for bringing that to the AFC North blog's attention.
John Monaco from Pittsburgh writes: After the Jets beat the Patriots it was pretty obvious their players take after their coach. The way a handful of them acted was one of the most disgraceful and classless things I have ever seen in sports. Being a Steelers fan I have always naturally hated the Patriots more than any other team but after seeing the end of that game the Jets may have taken over that spot.
Rick from Baltimore writes: In Bart Scott's postgame interview with Sal Paolantonio, he said that the Patriots defense couldn't even stop a nosebleed. Could that somehow be construed that the Jets offense is really actually not awesome and easy to shut down, such as a nosebleed? Ha ha ha, food for thought. Go Steelers!
Walker: I understand people who didn't like the lack of sportsmanship. But I give the Jets a pass on this one. It's the playoffs and you have to understand the buildup created that week where everyone wrote the Jets off like they were a joke. So it was just as much a slap in the face to the media/fans/doubters as it was the Patriots. Rick, interesting thought but I doubt Scott was bashing his own offense. I think he was talking more about New England's No. 25 ranking in total defense.
Jamie from Akron writes: I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day. A couple of years ago this hire would have made me sick to my stomach. With Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert stabilizing the front office I feel a little better about bringing in a coach without head-coaching experience. However, this just feels like a let down. With names like Jon Gruden, John Fox and even Holmgren, the Pat Shurmur hire doesn't give me the "first date" tingly feeling at all. We've got to win now and I'm not sure if the "first-time-head-coach-guy" is what this franchise needs.
Walker: All good points, Jamie. I've notice Browns fans either aren't sold on the hire or faithfully trusting in Holmgren's selection. The harsh truth is -- and I've said this for weeks -- the Browns were not going to land an A-list coach unless Holmgren came down from the front office. The job is not all that attractive and it's going to take a while to win in Cleveland. I think deep down Holmgren knows that. Still, I was surprised Shurmur was the choice. But Holmgren could look like a genius in a couple years.
Steve from Findlay, Ohio, writes: Being a Browns fan I have been thinking ahead to April's draft for some time now, sad as it is to say. I think the browns top priority in the draft should be a right tackle because our right side got repeatedly eaten up by opposing defenses this season. I think the next most important need for the Browns is a big-play receiver to help out Colt McCoy and stretch the field keeping the safeties honest. But because RT is not such a premium in the first round I think A.J. Green is the guy to go for first.
Scott Eaton from Columbus, Ohio, writes: How close are the Browns? I believe if they can have another draft like they had this past year, along with picking up some big names in free agency, they will contend for the division title next season. And you can quote me on that!
Kovacs from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Hahahahahaha. The Dolphins hired Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator. What an absurd move! The Dolphins have botched the head coach search and now they come up with this. Amazing.
Walker: You're right, Steve. Drafting a right tackle at No. 6 would be a horrible mistake. The Bengals did it a couple years ago with Andre Smith and it go them nowhere. Scott, you are quoted as the Browns being a contender next season. Kovacs, what's so funny? Ok, yes, Daboll did a pretty bad job in Cleveland.
AFC North Homer of the Week
Let's recycle last week's oldie but goodie in our division inbox from the anonymous New England Patriots fan.
Anonymous Patriots fan writes: All the trash-talking for what? I thought you do that after you win? Don't worry, Ravens and Steelers. Do all the trash-talking you want. Both of you will be watching the Patriots win another ring.
Walker: The fact that this Patriots fan e-mailed me anonymously told me right away this person wasn't that confident. I wonder if this person will be watching the Jets and Steelers play on Sunday.