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Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wake-up: Fichtner is top in-house candidate

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

The Steelers' next offensive coordinator will be quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner if the team promotes from within, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The field got narrowed down further yesterday, when offensive line coach Sean Kugler told a Pittsburgh radio station that he didn't have any interest in the coordinator position. The leading candidate to replace Bruce Arians would have been running backs coach Kirby Wilson but he is still recovering from a fire in his home.

Hensley's slant: It would make no sense to go outside the organization and install an entirely new offensive system. With Fichtner, the Steelers would maintain continuity and would have someone who already has an established relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The promotion should happen relatively quickly if Fichtner is the choice.

BENGALS: Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will finally get a chance to see the game from the sideline, the team's website reported. Dalton is the third quarterback on the AFC team in the Pro Bowl and should appear sometime in the second half. He plans to pick the brains of the other two AFC quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and San Diego's Philip Rivers. “Just to see how they do things," he said. Hensley's slant: You can tell by how Dalton approaches a meaningless game like the Pro Bowl that he isn't likely to have a sophomore slump. This offseason will be big for Dalton, who didn't have one as a rookie because of the lockout. It'll be interesting to see how much Dalton improves in his second season.

BROWNS: The Akron Beacon Journal's Marla Ridenour isn't buying the recent report that the Browns would trade two spots up to No. 2 overall to take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. "It seems more likely to me that the Browns floated the notion of trading up as a smokescreen or to drum up trade partners," Ridenour wrote. "They surely wouldn’t mind getting such conversation flowing, especially when they might rather trade down than up." Hensley's slant: Count me in among those not buying this rumor. Trading up seems the least likely scenario for the Browns. I'm not sure the Browns would even take Griffin if he was sitting there when the Browns are on the clock with the fourth overall pick. There is plenty of evaluation time -- and smokescreens -- between now and the draft in April.

RAVENS: A source told The Baltimore Sun that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been giving instructions for the upcoming weeks to his assistant coaches, which could be an indication that he is coming back. The source added that the only stipulation for Cameron's return was the hiring of a quarterbacks coach. Cameron, whose contract expires this offseason, served as coordinator and quarterbacks coach this past season. Hensley's slant: If it's Harbaugh's decision, Cameron will stay because his ties with the Harbaugh family are very strong. When Cameron was the head coach at Indiana, he hired Harbaugh as his special teams coach in 1997. Cameron was also an assistant at Michigan when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback there. If Cameron returns, it would mark his fifth season with the Ravens, which would be the team's second-longest run for an offensive coordinator (Matt Cavanaugh served six years in that position).