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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Wake-up: Big Ben, Haley still haven't talked

By Jamison Hensley

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

It's been two weeks since Todd Haley was named the Steelers offensive coordinator, and he still hasn't spoken with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"He still hasn't called yet," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review yesterday. According to the paper, Roethlisberger "had the tone that he has no intention of making the first move."

Roethlisberger acknowledged last week that he's been talking to people around the league about Haley and the response has been "good, bad and indifferent."

"I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion," Roethlisberger said last week.

Hensley's slant: In taking a big-picture approach, the fact that a quarterback and offensive coordinator didn't speak in February will not affect what happens in the season opener in September. What is newsworthy about this is Roethlisberger has made it public that he is eager to talk to Haley and the offensive coordinator hasn't responded with a phone call. Haley has never been known as a player-friendly coach, and this drama hasn't done much to change that perception.

BENGALS: Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden plans to open up the offense because he believes his young players are ready to handle more of the West Coast playbook. Gruden laid out the biggest challenge to quarterback Andy Dalton. "He better get better or he won't be good enough," Gruden told the team's website. "You have to be great at that position and we think he can be great. That's why we drafted him where we did and he had a remarkable rookie season, no doubt about it. Knowing the kind of kid he is and how he works, I know he'll get better. That's why I like our offense. All our guys are like that."

Hensley's slant: The Bengals are the ones who can make it much easier for Dalton to "get better" if they spend some of that $60 million salary-cap surplus. Cincinnati needs to upgrade at running back, wide receiver and both guard positions. If the Bengals want Dalton to improve, they have to improve the supporting cast around him.

BROWNS: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, a potential first-round target of the Cleveland Browns, said he is looking forward to talking to team executives from around the league at this week's NFL combine. "I’m excited to wow them in the interviews with the type of offense that we run, just so they can understand it’s not as simple as some people make our spread out to be. It’s a different kind of spread,” Griffin told The Associated Press. “Although I don’t agree with it, but people say I just burst on the scene this year, so no one knows much about me, whether NFL GMs or analysts, so I get a chance to put my best foot forward.”

Hensley's slant: RG3 should be excited to talk to team officials because this is where he has the advantage over Andrew Luck. While Luck has the statistics and accuracy, RG3 has the edge in charisma. It's that personality that could solidify him as the second most-wanted player in this draft.

RAVENS: Even if Matt Birk decides not to retire, there's no guarantee that the Ravens will bring back the six-time Pro Bowl center, according to the Baltimore Sun. The paper cited general manager Ozzie Newsome's comment at the State of the Ravens address that the team will add another center to the roster for next season, which "reinforces" the idea that team officials would like to get a little younger and more physical on the offensive line.

Hensley's slant: There are plenty of quality free-agent centers available -- San Diego's Nick Hardwick, Houston’s Chris Myers and Green Bay’s Scott Wells. But it will cost to sign one of them, and it is probably more than what the Ravens are willing to spend at that spot right now. I see the Ravens drafting a center and using Andre Gurode as a veteran stopgap.