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Friday, June 25, 2010
Walker's (early) weekend mailbag

By James Walker
ESPN.com

We're going to dig into the weekend mailbag a little early this week.

WadeBrink via Twitter writes: I don't agree with the 1975 Steelers. Still a great team, yes, but 1978 is better.

James Walker: It was a tough call, Wade. But here is the case that I made for the '75 team. First, the '75 team beat their opponents by an average of 15.1 points per game, which is utter dominance. The '78 team won by 10.1 per game, which is good but not as dominant. Second, the core group in '75 was three years younger and all in their prime. For example, I would rather have a 27-year-old Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount than a 30-year-old Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount. Also to that point, Franco Harris had a career-high 1,246 rushing yards in '75. He was never better with the Steelers than he was in that particular season. In '78, Harris was three years older and rushed for 1,082 yards with just a 3.5 yards-per-carry average.


Mike from Ewa Beach, HI, wants to know if Ben Roethlisberger would be a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year if he plays well this season.

Walker: To my knowledge, the award goes to the player who came back from a tough season the year prior. Roethlisberger was great last year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards. Even with a suspension, I don't see how he could be a strong candidate for the award.


Jason from Avon, Ohio, wants to know if Mike Holmgren playing hardball with five restricted free agents could eventually hurt the Cleveland Browns.

Walker: It will be an individual case for each player. But overall, money usually talks. If, hypothetically, the Browns want to pay D'Qwell Jackson, or Jerome Harrison or Matt Roth a $30 million contract extension next year, I doubt any of those players will pass it up because they were upset about last year's tender. The free agents will take the best deal, whether it's from Cleveland or another team.


Will from Konya, Turkey, writes: What do you think will happen first: the Browns make the Super Bowl or the Super Bowl goes to Cleveland?

Walker: Nice job to flip the "Take your pick" premise back on me. I will take the Browns playing in a Super Bowl first. I just don't see Cleveland hosting the big game anytime soon.


Adam from Provo, Utah, writes: Big BYU fan here. With the Ravens signing Marc Bulger, what happens to John Beck? Is he going to get cut?

Walker: Beck is in an interesting spot because his future could hinge on another player: Troy Smith. There has been Smith trade talk before, and that will only intensify now that he’s the No. 3 quarterback behind Joe Flacco and Bulger. But the offseason proved the Ravens couldn't get much for Smith, who had just a fifth-round tender. A key injury could facilitate a Smith trade elsewhere this summer, and Beck would be safe. But if Smith is still on the roster in September, he likely has the edge as the third quarterback.


Bryan Roberts from Philadelphia wants to know what safety Chinedum Ndukwe's chances of starting are with the Cincinnati Bengals?

Walker: There are four safeties in the mix for two starting positions. But I don't think this race is even close to being decided to provide a firm gauge. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said in minicamp that Ndukwe had a very good offseason. That bodes well for him, but it's too early to project with any certainty.

Complaint department

Here are some comments and complaints you sent to our AFC North inbox this week:

Josh from Owings Mills, MD, writes: I never thought I'd say this as a Ravens fan, but I would rather sweep the Bengals than the Steelers this year. Their fans are way more annoying with their boasting about a team that has NO chance of repeating as division winner. I guess I admire them for being passionate fans, but they're rooting for a loser. You're impartial for now to satiate those fans, but c'mon, there's only one team in this division moving in the right direction.

Mike from Ewa Beach, HI, writes: Please choose against the Steelers! The O-line will be improved due to better coaching/scheming, the defense will dominate if healthy, and the running game will improve due to renewed focus. Lastly it's an even year so the special teams will be good. Remember this and post it!

Sulaiman from New Jersey writes: Don't you think people are putting the Steelers down too much. Their schedule isn't that hard for the first four games and they will go 4-0, because their only tough game is against Ravens, and the Steelers are playing on their own turf. I think you will change your mind when you see the standings in the beginning of October. 1.Pittsburgh 2.Ravens 3.Bengals 4. Browns.

Will from Nashville, TN, writes: Update the Bengals article at the end of the season. Greatest Bengals team ever: 2010.

Greg from Cleveland writes: I love the "Remember last year" articles you do. It's funny how much changes in just one year.

(Editor's note: From the looks of it, some of these comments are prime candidates for next year's blog.)

Mike from Madison, Wisc., writes: In response to the Chad Ochocinco comment about the Bengals going to the playoffs, it may seem remarkable but you have to consider that there's this kind of talk EVERY year from players like him They're bound to be correct some of the time.