AFC North mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com James Walker

The AFC North mailbox is flooding fast, so let's get into some questions.

Arj from Pittsburgh writes: James, thanks a lot, great blog. Any thoughts on Bruce Arians' playcalling over the past 3 games? In my opinion, it's been pretty awful. Also, why hasn't there been any talk about the Steelers picking up Shaun Alexander? He sounds like a better option that Najeh Davenport.

James Walker: Thanks for the kind words, Arj. I'm one of the few people still reserving judgment on Bruce Arians' play-calling four games into the season. It's obvious the Steelers are struggling. They are ranked No. 29 offensively in the NFL, which shouldn't happen with a wealth of very good skill players. But against Houston the offense was great. Awful weather against Cleveland simplified things in Week 2, and the past two games were against very good defenses. Pittsburgh also lost two tailbacks and a starting guard in the process. I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying it feels too early to accept the invite to the Bruce Arians bashing party that's running rampant in Steelers Nation right now. Shaun Alexander doesn't fit Pittsburgh physical rushing style.

Bobby writes: What chance does Cedric Benson have in Cincinatti of becoming the full time starter.

James Walker: There's always a chance, Bobby, but it's way too early. Let's see Benson play a game first and examine what kind of game shape he's in. Chris Perry is averaging 2.9 yards per carry and has trouble holding onto the football. Perry hasn't gotten the job done by any means. So if Benson is able to show that he can be a featured back, I guess anything is possible. But what are the chances of Benson, whom 31 other teams passed on, can pull that off? I would say not very high.

Jermaine from Hyattsville, Md. writes: I see you are from the same area. I was also thinking about moving to the Cleveland area. Would you suggest that?

James Walker: I don't get many non-football related questions, especially from people in my hometown. So forgive me, football fans, for this temporary diversion. I won't suggest to anyone where to live, Jermaine. But for me, cost of living is extremely important to your overall quality of life. I love home (I still call Maryland/Washington D.C. my home), but I feel the housing market and cost of goods and services are overpriced. I can visit as often as I want, I tell myself, and live a higher quality of life in Ohio. That was my decision, Jermaine. I hope that helps.

Mark from State College writes: James - I'm wondering why the Steelers chose to sign Najeh Davenport instead of someone else to compensate for lost running back depth. Is it simply because he knows the offense? Maybe the ironic tone of it is influencing me, but wouldn't it have been a better call to sign someone like Shaun Alexander?

James Walker: I addressed this briefly in the first question of our mailbag, but I will elaborate. Alexander would be a terrible fit for Pittsburgh's physical running style. Alexander didn't break many tackles or fight hard for extra yards toward the end of his career. It's still somewhat of a mystery what happened. But that's one reason he's still unsigned and guys like Benson and Davenport were signed despite lesser resumes. Based on the mail we get, it seems a lot of Steelers fans want Shaun Alexander. Is it because he played in a Super Bowl against Pittsburgh a few years ago? What's the deal Steel Town?

Eric from Columbia writes: I saw an item where Jimme Johnson opines that Detroit should hire Scott Pioli as their GM away from the Patriots. If that would be possible, then Mike Brown should throw whatever money, scouting, perks Scott's way to make that happen in Cincy. This would give Mike Brown and the organization instant credibilty and go a long way towards improving the team both now and in the future. If not Scott then who would you recommend?

James Walker: Let me get this straight, Eric. You want the Cincinnati Bengals to spend a ton of money, beef up their scouting staff, and hire not just any general manager, but one of the best general managers in the business?

Brian from Baltimore writes: James, I have seen the Ravens play for many years, and this group of veterans on deffense is incredible and Joe Flacco has impressed me. In your opinion do the Ravens have the potential to make the playoffs and go far ?

James Walker: With a strong defense and solid special teams, the Ravens have a lot of things in place to potentially develop into a playoff team. But health is always key. Injuries killed Baltimore last year and it will be interesting to see if the team is fortunate in that department this season or not. They have a big measuring-stick game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. But all things considered, the Ravens have established themselves as an early contender through the first month of the season.