AFC North: Beanie Wells

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted a small group of visiting free agents Friday, but all left without a contract. Sounds like a theme in the AFC North today.

According to Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, running back Beanie Wells, outside linebacker Victor Butler and tight end Kellen Davis all finished their visits without any contract talks with the Steelers. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of negotiations later.

Each would address a void for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is seeking a featured running back after Rashard Mendenhall signed with Arizona, an outside linebacker to replace recently released James Harrison, and a tight end to fill in while Heath Miller recovers from knee surgery.

In other news, offensive lineman Willie Colon signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal with the Jets just two days after being released by Pittsburgh. The Steelers didn't want to pay Colon's $5.5 salary this year because of injury concerns, and they were right to cut the offensive lineman. Colon is expected to start at guard for New York, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Ravens safety Ed Reed -- or is it soon-to-be former Ravens safety? -- had dinner in Houston on Thursday night with Texans officials and wide receiver Andre Johnson, who was Reed's teammate at the University of Miami. According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, signs point to Reed getting a deal done with the Texans on Friday. Let's see if it plays out that way. Reed is the most unpredictable player I've ever covered in my 14 years in the NFL. Now let's go to the wake-up call ...

BALTIMORE RAVENS
  • The Ravens didn't attempt to match the Eagles' three-year, $17 million deal to cornerback Cary Williams. “I completely understand,” Williams told The Baltimore Sun. “I get it. They weren't trying to do anything at this point or bring back the old offer. No, there's no hard feelings. It's not something that you get upset about it. We won a Super Bowl, and now I'm moving on.”
  • The Ravens officially announced the release of safety Bernard Pollard. "There are many difficult decisions we make every offseason," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "They become even more difficult when they involve players who helped us get another Super Bowl trophy."
  • Baltimore re-signed reserve cornerback Chris Johnson to a one-year deal. Johnson, 33, played four games for the Ravens last season.
CINCINNATI BENGALS
PITTSBURGH STEELERS
CLEVELAND BROWNS
  • Chief executive officer Joe Banner dismissed rumblings that the Browns are interested in trading defensive linemen Phil Taylor or Ahtyba Rubin. There was speculation they could be involved in a deal for Patriots backup Ryan Mallett. “Our purpose has been to put together a really strong unit, have some depth so we can rotate and so if we have any injuries the line will still be one of the primary assets of the team," Banner said, via The Akron Beacon Journal. "That’s what we feel like we’re achieving. We’re not looking to be trading anybody.”
  • Browns new defensive lineman Desmond Bryant is eager to put the past behind him. He was arrested in Miami on Feb. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. He allegedly entered a neighbor’s house inebriated and caused a commotion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I made a mistake,” Bryant said at his introductory press conference, via The Plain Dealer. “I apologize for everything that happened. . .. That's really not the kind of person that I am. I think in time I will show you guys and whoever wants to know that that's not indicative of me. I've moved beyond that and hopefully everybody else will, too."
It was a fast start to free agency. It was so hectic that 20-plus posts weren't enough to cover everything in the AFC North on Tuesday. Time to hit the other news happening in the division ...

BALTIMORE RAVENS
CINCINNATI BENGALS
PITTSBURGH STEELERS
CLEVELAND BROWNS
  • The Browns and Buccaneers have expressed interest in trading for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a source told The Boston Herald. But the paper said no deal is imminent.
  • Browns receiver-returner Josh Cribbs is leaning toward signing with the Cardinals, according to Fox Sports. The Patriots are also interested in Cribbs.
  • Cardinals outside linebacker Quentin Groves, another pass rusher, is scheduled to visit the Browns, according to The Plain Dealer.
Former Cardinals running back Beanie Wells has drawn interest from the Steelers and Bengals, a source told ESPN.com.

The Steelers are looking for a featured back, but they don't have much salary-cap room to spend on a high-profile one. The Bengals are looking to add another running back to go with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, although it was assumed they would pursue a more explosive runner.

Wells, 24, a first-round pick in 2009, was cut by the Cardinals on Monday. He fell out of favor in Arizona because he couldn't stay healthy.

Wells' power running style would seem to suit the Steelers, who are expected to let Rashard Mendenhall go elsewhere in free agency. That leaves the Steelers with an underwhelming group of Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Baron Batch.

In 2011, his best season in the NFL, Wells rushed for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last season, he was limited to eight games due to a turf toe injury and was benched in late December.

In his four-year NFL career, Wells has averaged 4.0 yards per carry and has only three 100-yard rushing games.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 20, Browns 17, OT

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
7:55
PM ET

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: Different quarterback, same result for Cleveland. In Seneca Wallace's first start at quarterback this season, the Browns (4-10) suffered a fourth-quarter meltdown, losing in overtime after leading by 10 points with 8 1/2 minutes left in the game. It marked Cleveland's seventh loss in eight games and its fourth straight. This also secured the Browns' fourth straight season with double-digit defeats.

Fourth-quarter collapse: Holding a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter, the Browns let the Cardinals score the final 17 points. On the series after Beanie Wells scored a 1-yard touchdown, Wallace was sacked twice, fumbling deep in Cleveland territory on the last one. Jay Feely's 33-yard field goal tied the game in regulation and his 22-yarder in overtime won it.

Wallace fades: In starting for the injured Colt McCoy (concussion), Seneca Wallace started strong, completing 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards in the first three quarters. His 76-yard touchdown to Greg Little put the Browns up 17-7 -- their biggest lead since Week 2 against the Colts. But Wallace struggled in the fourth quarter and overtime, going 5-of-11 for 47 yards and committing a costly fumble.

Running strong: Peyton Hillis, who wasn't on the injury report this week, showed what he could do when healthy. He gained 99 yards on 26 carries and scored his first touchdown since Sept. 18 at Indianapolis. Hillis set the tone early with 35 rushing yards on the opening series that ended with his touchdown, a rare fast start for the Browns this season.

What's next: The Browns play at Baltimore on Dec. 24, their final road game of the regular season.
Here's your game-day warm-up:

If the experts for ESPN's NFL picks are correct, it will be a clean sweep for the AFC North in Week 7. The majority had the Browns, Steelers and Ravens all winning (the Bengals are on a bye).

Everyone had the Ravens over the Jaguars, and all but one chose the Steelers to win at Arizona. The closest call was the Browns beating the Seahawks (five picked Cleveland while three went with Seattle).

As far as the standings go, the Ravens (4-1) hold a half-game lead over the Steelers (4-2) and Bengals (4-2). The Browns trail by two games.

Here are some storylines for Sunday's games:
  • Seahawks (2-3) at Browns (2-3): Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst is expected make his first start of the season (and third of his career) because starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is doubtful. In his two previous starts, both last season, Whitehurst completed 57.6 percent of his passes for a total of 305 yards. His quarterback rating for those starts was 68.8 ... Browns cornerback Joe Haden (knee) is considered a game-time decision.
  • Steelers (4-2) at Cardinals (1-4): Nose tackle Steve McLendon will make his first NFL start as injuries continue to hinder the Steelers defensive line. It will be interesting to see if this change affects the Steelers run defense. Arizona's Beanie Wells ranks fourth in the NFL with 95.3 rushing yards per game. His six touchdowns are tied for second in the league.

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