AFC North: Myron Rolle

Myron Rolle among Steelers' cuts

August, 27, 2012
The Steelers announced their 15 moves to get down to the 75-player limit. Unlike the Ravens, the Steelers aren't going with an undrafted rookie at kicker, waiving Daniel Hrapmann.

Of those who were cut, the biggest name was safety Myron Rolle, a former Rhodes Scholar. He was a sixth-round pick by the Titans in 2010 and was cut by Tennessee before the 2011 season began.

Here are the other players waived by the Steelers: LB Ryan Baker, DT Mike Blanc, WR Paul Cox, CB Andre Freeman, LB Mortty Ivy (injury-waived), OL Kyle Jolly, LS Matt Katula, TE Jamie McCoy, CB Walter McFadden, TE Justin Peelle, WR Juamorris Stewart, DT Kade Weston and WR Jimmy Young.

Teams must get down to 53 players by 9 p.m. Friday.

AFC North links: Why trade McCoy now?

June, 25, 2012
Baltimore Ravens

Despite concerns from outsiders, guard Marshal Yanda thinks the Ravens' offensive line will be just fine this season, writes Garrett Downing of the team's website.

Cincinnati Bengals's Brian McIntyre says Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham could break out this season in Year 2 of Jay Gruden's offense.

Cleveland Browns

Quarterback Colt McCoy might indeed get traded, but it's puzzling as to why some believe it's coming before the Browns open camp July 28, writes Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "While it's naive to think the organization won't weigh offers between now and then, it makes sense to carry Brandon Weeden, McCoy and Seneca Wallace into training camp and let them play in exhibitions. There are quarterbacks bound to get hurt in preseason. One might be Weeden."

Pittsburgh Steelers

Safety Myron Rolle spent a recent afternoon shadowing Steelers neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, writes Teresa Varley of the team's website.

AFC North links: Weeden's goal is playoffs

June, 1, 2012
Baltimore Ravens

Ryan McBean, a former Broncos defensive lineman, appears to be off to a good start with the Ravens, reports Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times. "I just want to show my ability to get to the quarterback and stop the run," McBean said. "We've got guys here already that can do that, and I can add to that.

LaQuan Williams says he needs to expand his game as a receiver to make the team.“I have to make plays on both sides of the field, on offense and special teams, to make sure I’m here," Williams told Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun.

Cincinnati Bengals

Center Kyle Cook talks about breaking in two new teammates -- guards Travelle Wharton and Kevin Zeitler -- on the offensive line with Geoff Hobson of the team's website.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer employed some new, complicated schemes during this week's organized team activities, which not only showed who could handle the mental workload defensively, but also were a new challenge for second-year quarterback Andy Dalton, reports's Paul Dehner Jr.

Dalton was pleased the league decided to continue the Pro Bowl. "It’s great that they decided to keep the game around. It is an awesome experience, and an honor to get to play in the game. And I’m glad they kept the game in Hawaii. It’s a great reward at the end of the season," Dalton said via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cleveland Browns

When asked by ESPN Playbook what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said, "Honestly, just walking through the locker room, seeing the team lockers, being in an environment where you see a lot of pros. I’ve been through it with baseball obviously, but being in the locker room, when you’re the quarterback, kind of the face of what’s going on, that means a lot. After draft day, coming in on that Friday, seeing what was going on, that was special."

Playoffs? Weeden's goal is for the Browns to make the postseason, something the team hasn't done since 2002. “Obviously, you’ve got to take it one step at a time, and our goal is to get in the playoffs ... and once you get in the playoffs try to take it one step forward," Weeden said via Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Former wideout Hines Ward has signed on to be a TV analyst with NBC, according to Michael Hiestand of USA Today.

Safety Myron Rolle, a Rhodes Scholar and former Tennessee Titan, is trying to revive his football career with the Steelers, the AP reports.

Receiver Emmanuel Sanders on Todd Haley's new offense (via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "It’s definitely fun for a young guy like me. I was only in Bruce Arians’ system two years, so the change wasn’t that a big of a deal for me. But for Ben[Roethlisberger], a guy who has been in the NFL for nine years and been in the same offense, I can understand why it’s a little difficult."
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

The Steelers released cornerback Bryant McFadden and special teams player Arnaz Battle, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

These moves freed up $3.5 million in salary-cap room. McFadden played six of his seven NFL seasons for the Steelers, and Battle joined Pittsburgh in 2010.

Pittsburgh officially announced the signing of safety Myron Rolle, who was a 2008 Rhodes Scholar. He had been on the Tennessee Titans practice squad in 2010 and in their training camp last summer.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams requested permission to speak to Steelers director of administration Omar Khan for their general manager position, sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Khan, the team's salary-cap manager and chief contract negotiator, has been with the Steelers since 2000. He was a finalist in the Seattle Seahawks' general manager search two years ago.
Hensley's slant: The only significance with these cuts is that it's the beginning of what should be a long list of them. McFadden started the season opener but lost his starting job to William Gay. He played sparingly on defense much of the season and fell behind rookie cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown on the depth chart. Battle contributed on special teams but the veteran wide receiver didn't make a catch in his two seasons with the Steelers.

BENGALS: The Bengals dropped to 10th in the AFC this season with 22 takeaways. Their 10 interceptions were the fewest in coach Marvin Lewis' nine seasons in Cincinnati. "If there’s one thing we have to get … figure out a way to create more. Teams that create the most turnovers play in this game," Lewis told the team's website while at the Super Bowl. "More recently we have declined [in interceptions] and we have to find out why. We play more man concepts. That is part of it. We started very good and then we hit a lull. You have to look at that but conceptually that’s the difference." Hensley's slant: That was the biggest season-long weakness for a defense that consistently overachieved. How important are turnovers? Like Lewis said, you just need to look at the two teams who played in the Super Bowl. New England led the AFC with 34 takeaways, and the New York Giants were fourth in the NFC with 31.

BROWNS: Quarterback Colt McCoy was medically cleared from a head injury that sidelined him for the final three games last year, team president Mike Holmgren told ESPN 850 WKNR-AM in Cleveland (via the Akron Beacon Journal). "He passed all his tests and he’s feeling fine," Holmgren said. "He has no residual effects from the play. I know no one will work harder this off season than Colt McCoy. So I’m happy we got through all that and he’s fine and he appears to be.” Hensley's slant: Now, the only question that remains at quarterback is who will be competing against McCoy for the starting job. At this point, it would be a letdown if the Browns failed to draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III or sign Matt Flynn in free agency.

RAVENS: The team's website speculated that offensive tackle Jah Reid might shift to left guard if Ben Grubbs leaves in free agency. Reid, a third-round pick from a year ago, was drafted to be the team's future right tackle. "The thing that Steve [Bisciotti, team owner] pushed John [Harbaugh] and I the last couple of years is, ‘Don’t be afraid to play young players,’” general manager Ozzie Newsome said when asked about the potential position change. “We’ve had Jah now for a year, and now we’ve got him for a full offseason ... so John and I are not afraid.” Hensley's slant: The Ravens need to make contingency plans because it appears that the odds are against Grubbs returning. Replacing a Pro Bowl guard with a converted tackle seems like a major step backward to me. Baltimore would be better off adding a stop-gap veteran guard if it can't draft a quality one in the first three rounds.
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers met with Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at the NFL combine.
Morning take: I don't see Pittsburgh taking a linebacker on the first day, but with James Farrior aging you can't rule it out. By the way, Weatherspoon is a former college teammate of Pittsburgh's 2009 first-round pick, Evander "Ziggy" Hood.

  • Could safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle fit with the Baltimore Ravens?
Morning take: The Ravens have bigger needs as long as Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed returns. But in listening to Rolle's news conference Sunday, I didn't want it to end. I felt I was getting smarter by the minute.

  • University of Florida cornerback Joe Haden is a strong target for the Cleveland Browns at No. 7.
Morning take: I've heard nothing but great things about Haden. He may be one of the safer picks in the top 10.

Morning take: It took two years for Zimmer to build the defense into one of the league's best. Now it's all about improving the details, such as rushing the quarterback and covering slot receivers and tight ends better.

Seven-step drop (combine edition)

February, 28, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The AFC North blog is wrapping up its four-day tour of the NFL combine.

Here are seven closing notes and observations on the division:

[+] EnlargeLewis
Frank Victores/US PresswireMarvin Lewis led the Bengals to the AFC North title in 2009.

  • Although it's rare in the NFL, in some ways it seems Marvin Lewis is holding back on a contract extension with the Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis, who was honored as the NFL Coach of the Year, finally has some leverage to get some things how he wants them in Cincinnati. But at the same time, Bengals owner Mike Brown is notorious for rarely giving in and running the team his way. It will be interesting to see how this all works out. I talked to three league insiders at the combine about Lewis' situation and two felt he could definitely land a head-coaching job elsewhere in 2011. The third believed the uncertainty with the CBA and a potential lockout would be Lewis' biggest hurdle. But otherwise, Lewis could quickly land on his feet if he left Cincinnati.
  • Keep an eye on the Pittsburgh Steelers on draft day. I don't think they get enough credit for their propensity to wheel and deal on draft day. The Steelers are in a unique spot where their biggest need (cornerback) may not be available at No. 18. That could mean a trade out of the position for more picks or a trade up to get a player they covet. Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert has done both in recent years, which makes the team unpredictable. Last year, the Steelers traded out of the second round completely to get more second-day picks.
  • If I'm a general manager, sign me up for Michigan defensive end/linebacker Brandon Graham. He's not going to impress with his measurables, which is why there are some questions about him at the combine. But on the field, he has an NFL motor, he's productive and he gets to the quarterback. Also during his combine interview, you could tell he has a passion for the game. I want those type of players on my team.
  • Speaking of interviews, in no particular order I was really impressed with Florida State safety Myron Rolle, Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Idaho guard Mike Iupati, Graham and Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard. Interviewing well doesn't necessarily mean they all will be great NFL players. But it can't hurt and shows depth, character and personality.
  • Maybe I'm out of the loop on this one, but I would be surprised if the Baltimore Ravens landed free-agent receiver Terrell Owens. This rumor began to pick up steam at the combine, and was further perpetuated when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the team would be interested. Baltimore had a chance to sign Owens last season when he was a year younger, but didn't make a move. I don't get the sense much has changed with Baltimore about Owens, but I could be wrong.
  • But I do believe tailback Thomas Jones could be a potential target in free agency for the Cleveland Browns. Jones was coached by Eric Mangini, who has a fondness for his former players. Mangini doesn't have nearly the same pull in Cleveland. But the Browns have money to spend and a need for another running back to pair with Jerome Harrison, who is a restricted free agent Cleveland intends to bring back.
  • If the Browns don't go the free-agency route, Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller could be a sleeper candidate for Cleveland at No. 7. Already a top-10 player, Spiller solidified, and likely improved, his stock with a blazing (unofficial) 40-yard dash time of 4.28. The Browns drafted Spiller's former Clemson teammate James Davis last season. So rest assured, Cleveland's scouts have spent a lot of time the past two years tracking Spiller's career. Cornerback and safety are obviously bigger needs. But if those positions are taken off the draft board, I would take the top tailback (Spiller) over the top receiver (Dez Bryant) at No. 7 every time.