Friday, October 22, 2010
Final Word: AFC North
By James Walker
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will get his first exposure to a road crowd this season in Miami.
Ben Roethlisberger hits the road: The Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise quarterback, coming off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, made his 2010 debut in Week 6 in the comfort of his home stadium. Roethlisberger described the ovation he received from Steeler Nation at Heinz Field as "amazing." But he will get the opposite treatment on the road, starting Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Will Roethlisberger get heckled and, if so, how will he handle it? Will it affect his play? Roethlisberger has to hear the criticism for an extended period, because the Steelers will be away from home the next three weeks and don't return to Heinz Field until Nov. 14 against the New England Patriots.
Upset linebacker: Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was so disgruntled by his $75,000 fine this week that he was excused from practice Wednesday and briefly contemplated retirement. Now he's back and vows not to change his aggressive playing style despite increased scrutiny by the NFL on big hits. We will see how much or how little Harrison adjusts Sunday against Miami. Any big hit the league deems illegal could cost him a lot of money, as the NFL already set the bar for Harrison this week at $75,000. Or he could be suspended. The Week 6 big hits by Harrison gave Cleveland Browns receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi concussions.
Bye-week blues: For many teams, the bye week is an opportunity to regroup and then play their best football. But that hasn't been the case recently for the Cincinnati Bengals. During the Marvin Lewis era, Cincinnati is only 2-4-1 in games following the bye. The Bengals have several issues that need to be addressed heading into Sunday's important game against the Atlanta Falcons. Cincinnati cannot afford to fall to 2-4 in a deep AFC.
Quarterback dilemma: Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will get his second career start Sunday, against the New Orleans Saints. Coming off a relatively good debut against Pittsburgh, McCoy could make it tough on Browns coach Eric Mangini with another good performance. The plan was not to play the third-round pick at all this season. But a pair of severe ankle sprains to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace forced McCoy into action last week. If McCoy pulls off the major upset and beats the Saints, the job is his. Otherwise, the Browns will have to evaluate their quarterback situation during the bye.
Finish strong: The Baltimore Ravens are disappointed in their overtime loss to the New England Patriots. But the Ravens have a golden opportunity to head into the bye week 5-2 with a win Sunday against the lowly Buffalo Bills (0-5). There is some pressure at home on Baltimore, as it cannot have a letdown against arguably the NFL's worst team. There is already conversation this week of whether the Bills could beat an UFL team, which is embarrassing, but also could inspire Buffalo to bring its best effort at M&T Bank Stadium.