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Monday, June 24, 2013
Wake-up: A better Steelers secondary?

By Jamison Hensley

Glad to be back after taking some time off last week. It didn't look like I missed much (which I couldn't say if that team from New England was in the division), and the quiet period will likely continue until teams report to training camp in late July. Here's your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: The Ravens are are pleased with how inside linebacker Daryl Smith performed this month in offseason workouts, according to the Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston. Smith, a free agent from Jacksonville who was signed earlier this month, did "a lot of work with the first team" and was "flying around the field like a rookie again," Preston wrote. Smith was an integral signing for the Ravens, especially after Rolando McClain abruptly retired. He's a solid fallback option if Jameel McClain isn't the same player after a spinal cord contusion or if rookie Arthur Brown isn't ready to start immediately. Also, wide receiver Torrey Smith is engaged in another Twitter feud with Patriots fans.

BENGALS: During a media appearance in Cincinnati on Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised the Bengals' decision to be featured on the HBO training camp series "Hard Knocks" next month, the team's second appearance in five years. "The show has been popular with our fans because it gives them an inside look at how a team operates. The Bengals have been great about inviting HBO and NFL Films in to be able to see what's going on," Goodell said, via the team's official website. "I thought it was great for the Bengals brand and for the team on a national basis. So many of our fans got a chance to see the Bengals in a way they never saw them before."

STEELERS: The Steelers' starting secondary, which has led the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed the past two seasons, also tops the league in 37 years of playing experience, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. But cornerback Ike Taylor feels this defensive backfield won't show its age this season. “This is one of the most athletic secondaries that I ever played with,” Taylor said. “It goes (Super Bowl winning years of) 2008, 2005 and to be determined with this one. But let me tell you: This one has the potential, and I don't care how old we are. We were No. 1 last year, but we can be even better this year.” The Steelers get a healthier Troy Polamalu at safety this year and replaces Keenan Lewis with Cortez Allen at starting cornerback.

BROWNS: Safety T.J. Ward, known for his hard-hitting style, is embracing the aggressive attitude of the Browns' defense under new coordinator Ray Horton. “He’s always ramped up; he’s always ready,” Ward told the team's official website.” “He’s always here to pump you up. You hear him on the field, and he’s always giving out checks and calls, running around. Besides that, it’s the ferocity of his defense. It’s an attack style, all downhill. We’re really getting after the guys. That’s what I’m most excited about.”