Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described the team's meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week as "very productive," according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Tomlin and team president Art Rooney II went to league headquarters in New York to talk to Goodell about player safety and fines given to Steelers players. While Tomlin declined to reveal any specifics about the conversation, he likely brought up Ryan Clark's $40,000 fine for hitting Baltimore's Ed Dickson (which Tomlin called "excessive" at the time).
"We exchanged some ideas, and I think the meeting was born out of a conversation with Art and the commissioner," Tomlin said Tuesday. "They thought it would be productive for all of us to sit down and talk. It (was) good bye-week stuff."
Hensley's slant: While I don't think the NFL is targeting the Steelers -- they rank 24th in the NFL in penalties -- Pittsburgh is obviously doing something wrong in the league's eyes. The Steelers have been fined a reported 13 times this year totaling $182,500 (according to the Tribune-Review). It reflects well on the Steelers organization to be proactive on such a touchy -- and expensive -- subject.
BENGALS: After watching film, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden came away more impressed with Andy Dalton despite the rookie quarterback's three interceptions and a second consecutive loss to an AFC North team, according to Bengals.com. “He had a [heck] of a game. Three mistakes and all three of them I can live with,” Gruden told the website. “He did a great job. For the most part having to come from behind and throw that many times ... he kept us in it. They tried to rattle him and blitz him and he stood in there like a champ.” Hensley's slant: Gruden isn't the only one who was impressed. Once Dalton eliminates his second-half mistakes, he's going to give these defenses fits for years to come. What I've been most impressed with Dalton is his anticipation when making throws. He doesn't look like a rookie with that awareness. As Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the game: "He's a guy we're going to have to learn to deal with."
BROWNS: As the team's website put it, it was another typical day at the office for the Browns defense last Sunday. Of the Browns' four victories this season, only one has been decided by more than 7 points. The defense held the Jaguars out of the end zone in the final minute last Sunday despite being backed up at the Browns' 1-yard line. “When games are put in our hands to win, we’ve shown up," cornerback Dimitri Patterson said. Hensley's slant: Yes, the Browns rank first against the pass. But the statistic that jumps out to me is the Browns are eighth in red-zone defense. Cleveland has given up 12 touchdowns on 28 drives inside its own 20-yard line. In the Browns' four wins, they've allowed 12 points in those situations. Pretty impressive.
RAVENS: Baltimore is gearing up for a physical matchup with 49ers running back Frank Gore. "This one, he is very special," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said, via the Carroll County Times. "He runs angry. He runs very aggressive. We like that. We like the rough stuff." Hensley's slant: Lapses in run defense have cost the Ravens this season. In its past two losses, Baltimore has given up 100 yards to Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. So stopping Gore is a priority for the Ravens.