This is one of my favorite days of the football calendar. It's the end of the preseason. It's the end of watching a lot of players who won't be on the team by the end of this week run around for quarter after meaningless quarter. To celebrate, I will put together an observation roundup of all four preseason finales involving AFC North teams by the end of the night. Wait, I forgot to say good morning. And there is no better way to start your morning than with the AFC North wake-up call ...
BENGALS: Shifting from cornerback to safety and back to cornerback during games is starting to grow on Nate Clements. He told the team's official website that he noticed Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson roaming at strong safety at the age of 35 during last week's game against the Packers. "It’s exciting. I never know where I'm going to be," said the 32-year-old Clements. "You're put in a position where you can do a little bit of everything. Moving around in different positions is fun. (Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will) come up with something different. That's what keeps it exciting." Clements should embrace this hybrid role. If he wants to extend his career, playing safety has to be in his future.
BROWNS: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston thinks the Browns should play Brandon Weeden in the preseason finale instead of sitting the rookie quarterback. "[I]t’s not as if there is any guarantee that Weeden won’t get hurt eventually," Livingston wrote. "It’s also not as if Weeden has seen it all and doesn’t need any more fine-tuning. He is a remarkably poised and mature rookie, able to control his emotions much better than most first-year players due to the years he spent as a pitcher in the minor leagues. But he needs every chance to adjust to NFL speed and aggression, even if it’s in the fourth and final exhibition game." Livingston isn't the only one saying Weeden should play. His preseason stats say it, too. He's completed fewer than half of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown pass.
RAVENS: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron agrees that the heightened expectations of the offense puts more pressure on him. “I hope so,” he said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I really do. If you don’t thrive on that. ... You talk to the coaches that retire, you talk to the players that retire -- that’s what they miss. That’s what you would miss. I get to actually do it. I’m not behind a microphone on TV talking about it." During Cameron's four years with the Ravens, his game plan didn't need to be aggressive because Baltimore's defense was so strong. Now, with the defense expected to take a step back, Cameron and the Ravens' offense need to score more points if Baltimore wants to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
STEELERS: The Steelers will have some tough decisions in trimming down the roster to 53 players on Friday, especially if they plan to carry two injured players (guard David DeCastro and running back Rashard Mendenhall) who won't play for an extended period. One longtime Steeler who probably will suffer is quarterback Charlie Batch, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Steelers can go with Byron Leftwich as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger and put Jerrod Johnson on the practice squad, which makes Batch expendable in the last major cutdown. "There's always a problem getting to that 53," coach Mike Tomlin said. "That is the challenge that is the National Football League. We understand it and embrace it, and I think our guys do as well."