AFC North: Jack Bicknell

It's a special day for the division today. Your resident blogger is celebrating his birthday. I know, you forgot to send a card. Don't sweat it. My gift to you is the Bengals' Camp Confidential and a piece on soon-to-be inducted Jonathan Ogden, both of which will be posted later today. Until then, here's the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Experts are optimistic that tight end Dennis Pitta can return from a hip injury next season, according to The Baltimore Sun. "With a professional athlete like Dennis, his rehabilitation protocol should allow for him to return to full capability by next season," said Dr. Derek Ochiai, an orthopedic hip surgeon based in Arlington, Va. "I would expect him to be ready by the middle of [next] summer. What they let him do as far as offseason stuff and training camp next year is obviously far ahead of him and up to the Ravens and Dennis. But with a lot of hard work and patience, he should be back."

BENGALS: The Bengals have plenty of options at returner this year, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The favorite appears to be Adam Jones, who finished seventh in the league in punt-return average (11.6 yards per return). “He creates a lot of stress and anxiety for coaches, which is what you want to do," special-teams coach Darrin Simmons said. "I think he applies pressure to everyone he faces.”

STEELERS: The Steelers believe Le'Veon Bell is a good fit in the team's new zone-blocking scheme. "You have to have enough speed to threaten them, that's the big thing," offensive-line coach Jack Bicknell told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You don't have to be a 4.2 guy. You just have to have enough speed to threaten the outside, to make them think 'Hey, he could get around the edge,' and I think we have that."

BROWNS: A week into training camp, offensive tackle Joe Thomas believes the new blitz-happy defense is "willing to bring the house." Said Thomas, via The Plain Dealer: "I think this defense is going to take more risks. I think (Steelers defensive coordinator) Dick Lebeau is less likely to take a risk and give up a big play with a blitz or a pressure than our coordinator Ray Horton. He’s more willing to try to hit the quarterback and force an interception, force a turnover."
One of the fun parts of the job is you never know what is going to happen in a given day, especially at the Super Bowl. Take yesterday. I never thought I would be typing "deer-antler extract" on the blog. My guess is I'd better get used to using that term for the rest of the week. Here's your wildlife-free wake-up call ...

RAVENS: They texted last week. They talked on Monday. Now, the two most famous brothers in football could be having dinner this week. "There is some talk about a potential dinner at some point in time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said during Tuesday’s media day. “Maybe Wednesday night -- hopefully. We’ll have to see where we’re at work-wise.” Do you think they'll flip a coin to see who picks up the check?

BENGALS: Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth plans to have scar tissue removed from his knee, a procedure that will sideline him for spring workouts but will allow him to play pain free in 2013. "It's just a little repair; nothing big," Whitworth told the team's official website. "Everybody in the league deals with something like this. I did it about two years ago and it just wasn't getting any better. Now we've got a chance to get something done with plenty of time to rest." Whitworth expects to be ready for training camp and keep alive his streak of 67 straight starts.

STEELERS: The Steelers have hired Jack Bicknell Jr. to be their offensive line coach, replacing Sean Kugler, who left to become the head coach at UTEP. As The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Bicknell will oversee a young offensive line that could potentially feature five starters under the age of 25. Bicknell coached the offensive line for the Chiefs last season. “(The Chiefs) played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North,” coach Mike Tomlin told the team's official website. “They ran the ball effectively against us when Jamaal Charles had a 100-yard game. That was attractive to me. The plan they were able to put together, the success they were able to have vs. some people we are going to see quite a bit was a selling feature.”
BROWNS: It sounds like the Browns' scheme will change as often as new coordinator Ray Horton's answers. After recently stating in a radio interview that he intended to switch the Browns from a 4-3 front to a 3-4, Horton refused to put any numerical label on the base scheme he'll use next season. "We're going to look like an aggressive, forward attacking defense that has big men that can run and little men that can hit," he said in his introductory news conference. "That's the most important thing to me -- what do we look like, not what we line up in. We may be a 3-4 on one snap. We may be a 4-3 on another snap. I guarantee you we'll be a 5-2 sometimes, and we'll be a 4-4 sometimes."

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