AFC North: John Clay

During a recent training camp practice, Ravens running back Ray Rice playfully started to box fullback Vonta Leach on the sideline. That exchange sticks out right as the AFC North teams prepare to play their second preseason games because Rice is the last starting running back left standing in the division.

The Bengals aren't expected to have starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) and backup Bernard Scott (hand) at Atlanta on Thursday night. Third-down back Brian Leonard and special teams player Cedric Peerman should receive a bulk of the carries.

The Browns are without rookie first-round pick Trent Richardson for another week after he had arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 9. Backup Montario Hardesty, who had 16 yards on four carries in the preseason opener, will get his second start.

The latest starting back in the division to go down with an injury is the Steelers' Isaac Redman, who said he has an MRI scheduled for Thursday morning and that was before he was unable to finish Wednesday's practice. With last year's leading rusher (Rashard Mendenhall) and this year's backup (Jonathan Dwyer) both injured, the Steelers will lean heavily on Baron Batch and Chris Rainey until Redman and Dwyer get healthy.

None of the injuries to the starting backs are considered serious. When the season begins in less than four weeks, Green-Ellis, Richardson and Redman are expected to be lining up in the backfield.

Still, the number of injured backs heading into the second preseason game is a troublesome trend for the division. If you're keeping track at home (and add the Steelers John Clay), the number of running backs currently injured in the AFC North is seven.

Quick Take: Steelers at Broncos

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
11:15
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's Pittsburgh Steelers-Denver Broncos wild-card game:

1. Get the offense back on track. Since Ben Roethlisberger sprained his left ankle, Pittsburgh has scored two touchdowns in 10 quarters with him as quarterback. With the injury, Roethlisberger hasn't been able to follow through on his passes because he is unable to put weight on his left leg -- and the results have reflected his struggles. He has completed 56 of 96 passes (58.3 percent) for 729 yards. He has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions for a 68.4 passer rating. Not getting a first-round bye really hurt the Steelers and Roethlisberger.

2. Figure out what to do with the running game. The Steelers will be without running back Rashard Mendenhall after he injured his right knee in the regular-season finale against Cleveland, which proved to be a meaningless game in terms of playoff implications for Pittsburgh. An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow. While the Steelers haven't relied on their running game much this season, Pittsburgh will need to lean on it more with Roethlisberger injured. The Steelers replaced Mendenhall with Isaac Redman, who scored a touchdown but fumbled twice in the second half. John Clay could also factor into the rotation.

3. Keep the pressure on Tim Tebow. The Steelers haven't faced a quarterback quite like Tebow all season. But the bigger problem is Tebow hasn't faced a defense like the Steelers, especially one on this type of a hot streak. Pittsburgh hasn't allowed a touchdown in its past two games (albeit against the likes of the Rams and Browns). These are the points allowed by the Steelers defense over the past six games: 9, 7 , 3, 20, 0 and 9 — an average of 8 per game.

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