- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
The Steelers re-signed offensive tackle Max Starks to help their banged-up line, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday morning.
Starks visited with the team only a few months after the Steelers reportedly released him for being overweight. He has apparently lost 60 pounds and is near his listed playing weight of 345 pounds.
There is a question about Starks' role. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Starks isn't being signed to be an immediate starter. But the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that it's unclear whether Starks will challenge for a starting job or just provide experienced depth.
Every starter on the Steelers' offensive line has missed practice time at some point this season, and Pittsburgh was without three starters from the season opener this past Sunday in Houston. Starting left tackle Jonathan Scott looks like he will return Sunday after missing the last game with an ankle injury, coach Mike Tomlin said.
Hensley's slant: This whole situation confuses me. Still scratching my head on why the Steelers didn't make this move for Starks earlier, and I'm not sure about the team's continued fascination with Scott. He has given up 18.5 sacks in his past 29 games, including 3.5 in three starts this season. Every team in the AFC North has shored up the blind side (the Browns' Joe Thomas, the Bengals' Andrew Whitworth and the Ravens' Bryant McKinnie) except the Steelers.
BENGALS: Cincinnati has started in its opponents' territory 10 times this season, which is tied for the most in the NFL. But the Bengals have only scored two touchdowns after receiving such favorable field position, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hensley's slant: The only way the Bengals can take advantage of this surprising start is by capitalizing on these short fields. There should be plenty more opportunities for Cincinnati because its top-ranked defense will continue to force three-and-outs. But at some point, the 23rd-ranked scoring offense needs to start pulling its weight.
BROWNS: Head coach Pat Shurmur said he views quarterback Colt McCoy as "almost a rookie." McCoy made the point that he's not the only one who is starting over in a new scheme. "You look across the receiver room, nobody has been in the West Coast in that room," McCoy told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "You look at the tight ends, nobody's been in the West Coast except Alex Smith in Tampa Bay. In a sense, we're all learning -- with a rookie quarterback." Hensley's slant: Starting over with a new system wouldn't be such a big challenge in most years. But the lockout eliminated all the offseason workouts. So, there will be times when the Browns' offense will struggle even though McCoy appears to be a good fit for this system.
RAVENS: Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said the players were "shocked" Monday when coach John Harbaugh gave them the rest of the bye week off. Harbaugh decided that players' rehab was more important than extra practices. Said Johnson via the team's official website: “That just shows the maturity of Coach Harbaugh and this team to say, ‘What’s best for this team?’ … I think it shows a lot of trust on our coaches’ part because they know we’re going to go home and work out and keep in shape and do as much as you can to improve your body going down this stretch.” Hensley's slant: Harbaugh should have faith in his players when it comes to bye weeks. The Ravens are 3-0 under Harbaugh following the bye (which includes an impromptu bye following a hurricane in Houston in 2008), winning by an average margin of 19 points. History says the players have earned that trust.