AFC North: Floyd Womack
Both Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles) and Browns tailback Peyton Hillis (ribs) are listed as questionable. Polamalu returned to practice Friday for the first time in weeks to test his Achilles, and the team felt good enough to give him a 50-percent chance of playing in Cleveland. Hillis rested his rib injury this week, but Browns coach Eric Mangini expects his leading rusher to play.
Also from the injury report, Steelers running back Mewelde Moore (knee) is out. Cleveland starting guard Floyd Womack (knee) and defensive linemen Shaun Rogers (ankle, hip) and Kenyon Coleman (knee) are questionable.
Eddie from Charlotte, N.C., wants to know if there should be concern that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon stayed in the pocket too much last week.
James Walker: That's a great question, Eddie, and it's something that I have mixed feelings about. Dixon only rushed for four yards on two attempts against the Atlanta Falcons. But he's only doing what Pittsburgh's coaching staff wants. The Steelers want Dixon to spend more time in the pocket going through his second and sometimes third reads. His tendency is to make the first read, and if it's not there, Dixon takes off. Pittsburgh doesn't want to run its offense that way. But I think, to some degree, the team also is taking away Dixon's best asset, which helps the defense. Dixon is not a pocket passer. I think the Steelers should let "Dennis be Dennis" a little more, and allow him to scramble for first downs. It would help the offense.
Steve from Johnsonburg, Pa., writes: I know this is a long shot, but is there any way the Steelers could bring Logan Mankins to Pittsburgh?
Walker: Nope. Pittsburgh is finished negotiating contracts for the 2010 season. A trade and major signing would be way out of character of the Steelers. It's not happening.
Alex from Madison, Wis., wants to know how much cornerback Lardarius Webb's return will help the Baltimore Ravens.
Walker: Webb's expected return Sunday could not have come at a better time. Baltimore's secondary was fortunate to face Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets in Week 1. The Ravens were thin in the secondary and New York struggles to go vertical on offense. But the Bengals have a legitimate threat at quarterback in Carson Palmer and plenty of receivers to potentially give Baltimore headaches. The Ravens will need Webb, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr and Josh Wilson to all play well this week.
GPaych via Twitter writes: You think Ray Lewis was trying to send a message with that hit on Dustin Keller on that last drive?
Walker: Absolutely. Lewis, perhaps more than anyone, did not enjoy the Jets' bravado and constant talking leading up to the game. After the Ravens' D played lights out for four quarters, Lewis delivered a parting shot for the Jets to remember.
Tyler R. Smith from Palm Springs, Calif., writes: I have a fantasy football team and I have Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and Aaron Rodgers. But I found Carson Palmer sitting as a free agent. Should I keep Flacco or trade him for Palmer?
Walker: I would pick up Palmer and release Sam Bradford. Rodgers, Flacco and Palmer are a very strong group of quarterbacks.
Joseph from Los Angeles wants to know if Eric Mangini put too much pressure on the passing game in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Walker: Between Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, yes, too much pressure was put on the passing game. Jake Delhomme threw 37 times against the Bucs. The Browns led by 11 points in the second quarter and it was close the entire game, but Delhomme was playing on a gimpy ankle the entire second half. Cleveland's coaching staff failed to make the proper adjustments at halftime and it cost them. The offense went scoreless in the second half.
Eddie Kilroy from Brunswick, Ohio, wants to know how the right side of Cleveland's offensive line can improve.
Walker: This is a trouble spot for the Browns. Offensive tackle John St. Clair and guard Floyd Womack played poorly last week, and I'm not sure they are the answer on the right side for the next 15 games. Cleveland's coaching staff likes rookie guard Shawn Lauvao's potential, but he's been banged up with a bad ankle. When Lauvao gets healthy, look for him to at least get into the rotation on the right side and possibly earn a starting job later in the season.
Comment and complaint department
Chris Carpenter from Cincinnati writes: To whom it may concern on the Bengals, I would appreciate it if you would play football. The season started last Sunday. Your physical abilities are great; however, your mental execution was that of a Pee Wee team. You are able to play better. Your fans deserve a better product on the field. On a related note with the upcoming CBA issues: The owners may sign your checks, but the fans are really the ones who pay you. The owners will be rich with or without football. Just food for thought while you played like crap. A concerned fan.
Jason from Cocoa, Fla., writes: James, the biggest argument coming from "Bengaldom" is that they went 6-0 in the division last year. My question is, what does that have to do with 2010? Absolutely nothing. I know there are Ravens fans, and I as a Steelers fan, that feel Cincinnati had a lot of fortunate things occur in their wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh last year. That is why I have picked them to finish third in the division. I just don't see them getting lucky two years in a row. The Ravens and Steelers are just more talented. Pittsburgh put a whipping on the Bengals last year in both games, only to blow the lead late in the game. That's nothing special on Cincy's part.
Brad from Atlanta writes: JW, when did the Bengals start getting so much respect? They looked horrific in their season opener and now they are playing one of the Super Bowl favorites and still half of ESPN's experts picked them to win. I've been a Bengals fan for a long time and, typically, when the Bengals get stomped like they did last week, everyone starts referring to them as the Bungles of old.
Chris from Annapolis, Md., writes: Is Pittsburgh top 10? Maybe not right now, but defense does win championships. Pittsburgh just needs to win one of the next three to be in solid shape for Ben Roethlisberger's return.
Butch from San Antonio writes: What makes you think Dallas and Washington are better teams than Pittsburgh? I am assuming defense, because neither team has much of an offense. The Steelers won with a third-stringer that alone should speak volumes as to the will of this team to overcome the Big Ben controversy. What is the excuse for the ineptitude of Dallas and Washington on offense?
Champ from District Heights, Md. writes: Real simple: I know it's not your division but how about them REDSKINS?
Shaneeka from High Point, N.C., writes: James, I know you like to look at history and records to make your picks, as evidence of your constant reminder of Carson Palmer's record vs. the Ravens and the Ravens' recent record vs. the Steelers. So, I thought I'd point out this nugget for you, the last time the Ravens won the season opener and missed the playoffs was 1996, their first NFL season.
Josiah from Baltimore writes: I can't wait until the Pats put the Jets down this Sunday so I can stop hearing about Jets this, Rex Ryan that. Really, JW, can you like tell some of your colleagues to cool it on the Jets. It's getting old. It was OK before the season started when we needed some storylines during training camp, but now it's time for REAL football, and there is a lot more going on in the league then the Jets and Rex Ryan's mouth. I think all the AFC North bloggers and fans can agree with me when I say NOBODY CARES OUTSIDE NEW YORK.
Kovacs from Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Brian Daboll is infuriating. I know the guys need to execute, but did it seem like Daboll's game plan was awful in the second half? The Browns had a lot of success attacking the edges with the run and getting some quick hitters in the passing game. Second half was a lot of runs up the middle and deep drops. He's got to adjust better.
Andy from Canada writes: Since when does Cleveland run a pass-first offense? The ratio of pass to run this weekend boggled my mind. This is not Mangini/BD's offense. There is more Mike Holmgren influence here than they let on, and it's not good. Tampa Bay was awful against the run last year and the Browns made them look great. Last year the QB never would have had a shot at throwing that late first-half pick, because they would have ran the ball into field goal range. For the Browns to have a shot at home against Kansas City two ratios have to increase: run to pass and Jerome Harrison to Peyton Hillis.
AFC North Homer of the Week
(Editor's note: I knew our community wouldn't fail me this week.)
1977BROWNS writes: How about this Walker: Take your Ravens and Bengals and stay on that bandwagon. I don't want to hear or see you…backing the Browns after they go 5-3 or better halfway through the season. We have a tough schedule but we will make the best of it. I believe in the Browns making the playoffs and I know you think that they will finish dead last in the AFC North this season. Take the past and all the stats which don't amount to a hill of beans. Holmgren and Jake will get this ship righted and look out. You and a lot more people may be eating their words in just a few weeks. Go Browns. As a writer I know you have to be the bad guy in this division, but the underdog will upset your predictions this year. The Browns and Steelers will finish first and second in the AFC North this season. If I am wrong then I will…take it like a real loyal fan. If I'm right, then I expect the same from you as a writer.
- At age 34, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward is getting ready for the 2010 season.
- Who will play cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens?
- Guard Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack hopes to add beef to the offensive line of the Cleveland Browns.
- Here is a look at Pro Bowl snubs for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Cleveland Browns are going into their divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens very shorthanded.
Starting tailback Jamal Lewis (hamstring) and kicker Phil Dawson (calf) were among four key players downgraded to "out" Saturday night. Lewis missed practice all week and was listed as "doubtful," while Dawson was "questionable."
The Browns (0-2) also made a roster move to sign veteran kicker Billy Cundiff, who will be a last-minute replacement for Dawson against Baltimore (2-0). To make room for the move, Cleveland released rookie running back Cedric Peerman.
Offensive guards Rex Hadnot (knee) and Floyd Womack (ankle) also were downgraded to "out" late Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
I wanted to pass on a few tidbits to AFC North readers from this week's NFL owners' meetings in Dana Point, Calif.
Tomlin on the Steelers-Ravens rivalry:
"You appreciate it. To be a part of it is something that's special and I think that's something we share on both sides of the rivalry. I think the personalities, the leadership, the passion that's displayed on both sides makes the rivalry what it is. And all you've got to do is look at guys like Ray Lewis and James Farrior and Derrick Mason and Hines Ward and it's what the game of football is about. And every time we come together it displays the best of the game of football.”
Tomlin on his fast learning curve:
"This is not a job that has a manual. It's a very lonely job at times. I think you accept all of those responsibilities and challenges going in and then do the best you can. You trust your instructs, at least I do.”
Tomlin on negotiations with LB James Harrison:
"I think we're all confident that it's something that's going to take place. I know it's something both parties want and the process is just running its course at this point.”
"I don't have a projected starter at this point. What we're going to do is we'll have an open competition where they'll both get a chance to establish that they'll be the starter. I've been through this before in New York. I think that competition was fair. I think it was thorough. And at the time it was very clear to me who the starter should be. I anticipate it being the same way.”
Mangini on receiver Donte Stallworth's situation:
"It's obviously a tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and his family. It's a legal matter as well. I made a statement. That's all I'm really going to say about it.”
"I think that they both played multiple positions along the line, which I really like. I like their versatility. We're going to play the best players. They'll have a great opportunity and we'll see how that goes.”