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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Wake-up call: Steelers start making cuts

By Jamison Hensley

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

The Steelers released cornerback Bryant McFadden and special teams player Arnaz Battle, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

These moves freed up $3.5 million in salary-cap room. McFadden played six of his seven NFL seasons for the Steelers, and Battle joined Pittsburgh in 2010.

Pittsburgh officially announced the signing of safety Myron Rolle, who was a 2008 Rhodes Scholar. He had been on the Tennessee Titans practice squad in 2010 and in their training camp last summer.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams requested permission to speak to Steelers director of administration Omar Khan for their general manager position, sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Khan, the team's salary-cap manager and chief contract negotiator, has been with the Steelers since 2000. He was a finalist in the Seattle Seahawks' general manager search two years ago.
Hensley's slant: The only significance with these cuts is that it's the beginning of what should be a long list of them. McFadden started the season opener but lost his starting job to William Gay. He played sparingly on defense much of the season and fell behind rookie cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown on the depth chart. Battle contributed on special teams but the veteran wide receiver didn't make a catch in his two seasons with the Steelers.


BENGALS: The Bengals dropped to 10th in the AFC this season with 22 takeaways. Their 10 interceptions were the fewest in coach Marvin Lewis' nine seasons in Cincinnati. "If there’s one thing we have to get … figure out a way to create more. Teams that create the most turnovers play in this game," Lewis told the team's website while at the Super Bowl. "More recently we have declined [in interceptions] and we have to find out why. We play more man concepts. That is part of it. We started very good and then we hit a lull. You have to look at that but conceptually that’s the difference." Hensley's slant: That was the biggest season-long weakness for a defense that consistently overachieved. How important are turnovers? Like Lewis said, you just need to look at the two teams who played in the Super Bowl. New England led the AFC with 34 takeaways, and the New York Giants were fourth in the NFC with 31.

BROWNS: Quarterback Colt McCoy was medically cleared from a head injury that sidelined him for the final three games last year, team president Mike Holmgren told ESPN 850 WKNR-AM in Cleveland (via the Akron Beacon Journal). "He passed all his tests and he’s feeling fine," Holmgren said. "He has no residual effects from the play. I know no one will work harder this off season than Colt McCoy. So I’m happy we got through all that and he’s fine and he appears to be.” Hensley's slant: Now, the only question that remains at quarterback is who will be competing against McCoy for the starting job. At this point, it would be a letdown if the Browns failed to draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III or sign Matt Flynn in free agency.

RAVENS: The team's website speculated that offensive tackle Jah Reid might shift to left guard if Ben Grubbs leaves in free agency. Reid, a third-round pick from a year ago, was drafted to be the team's future right tackle. "The thing that Steve [Bisciotti, team owner] pushed John [Harbaugh] and I the last couple of years is, ‘Don’t be afraid to play young players,’” general manager Ozzie Newsome said when asked about the potential position change. “We’ve had Jah now for a year, and now we’ve got him for a full offseason ... so John and I are not afraid.” Hensley's slant: The Ravens need to make contingency plans because it appears that the odds are against Grubbs returning. Replacing a Pro Bowl guard with a converted tackle seems like a major step backward to me. Baltimore would be better off adding a stop-gap veteran guard if it can't draft a quality one in the first three rounds.