AFC North: Sebastian Vollmer

One theme in the AFC North weekly chat was offensive lines. Are the Bengals re-signing Andre Smith? Who is starting at left tackle for the Ravens? Does it make sense for the Steelers to go after Sebastian Vollmer? You can find those answers and more in these highlights ...

Jim (Ohio): What are you hearing about the Bengals being able to resign Andre Smith?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): It sounds good. Teams are apparently worried about giving Smith too much money. There's questions about whether he'll still be motivated. If Bengals don't re-sign him, there are plenty of options in the draft. But none are as athletic as Smith.

Chuck (Cincy): Can you tell Who Dey Nation to calm down about not being aggressive in free agency? I'd rather extend Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson; re-sign Smith and Adam Jones than go spend big bucks on outsiders.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I agree that extending Atkins, Dunlap and Johnson should be a priority. The only criticism I have is the failure to address strong safety in free agency. Yes, the Bengals can draft someone to start. But getting someone in free agency doesn't force you to take one because it's less of a need.

Stlrfan743 (gettysburg pa): is there a chance that James Harrison is back with the Black and Gold this season? Has there been any conversations about this being a possibility? I know the Steelers brass expressed that they wanted to keep James.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): There is always a chance, but I don't see it happening. Harrison would't take a pay cut and I don't see him coming back at a price that would be even lower than the original pay cut. Plus, when the Steelers part with their big name players, they don't typically bring them back. Look at Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith.

curtis (ohio): Do you see the browns signing any defensive backs or safeties any time soon?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): The Browns made a good run at Falcons free-agent CB Brent Grimes. They reportedly sent a private jet for him. That would be a big signing for Cleveland. But there's talk that Grimes is thinking of staying with the Falcons. Bucs and Dolphins are also interested in him.

Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]: Pittsburgh won't panic. Come draft day the perfect player lands at No. 17 for them. Never fails.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Well, Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward don't really fall into the "perfect" category.

Average Joe (mean, median, ): As a first round pick is Ziggy a disappointment, a bust, or meets expectations? If you go with exceedes expectations, you got some explaining to do.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I would say disappointment. He would fall into the bust category if he never developed into a capable starter.

Mark (Houston): Any word on which way Terence Newman appears to be leaning?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): No word on where he's leaning. But Newman is close to Mike Zimmer. That has to weigh into the decision. But he also knows the Bengals want to get Kirkpatrick into the starting lineup at some point this season.

Aaron (DC): Afternoon, Jamison. Do you see the Browns making any more moves in free agency, or do you think they're content to wait for the draft to try to plug the rest of their holes?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): They'll have to address cornerback in some fashion, whether it's a top-level guy like Brent Grimes or a stop-gap like New England's Kyle Arrington. You can't go into the draft with that hole there.

Peter G (New Berlin, WI): Do you think the Browns overpaid for Kruger and Bryant?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Kruger, a definite yes. $20M guaranteed for someone who has 15.5 career sacks. Bryant, no. Teams around the league know his value. That's why the Patriots wanted him as well.

Shane (Charlotte): Do you think it makes sense for the Steelers to try and sign offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I think the Steelers were interested in Jake Long because he was such a significant upgrade. Not sure if Pittsburgh thinks the same about Vollmer.

Great8 (College Park): Who's the early favorite to play LT for the Ravens this year?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Michael Oher. Remember, you asked the question. Don't get upset with the answer.
Offensive tackle Jake Long signed a four-year deal with the St. Louis Rams on Sunday night that could be worth up to $36 million. The former No. 1 overall pick reportedly chose the Rams over the Miami Dolphins, but there was another interested team as well.

The Pittsburgh Steelers surprisingly made a play for Long as well, although it occurred after his negotiations were too far along with St. Louis, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. This information indicates the Steelers aren't completely sold on their offensive tackles and the team could be more active in free agency than many expected.

This type of move is unlike the Steelers, who rarely go after such high-profile free agents. Long would provide experience and dependability in protecting the blind side of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose injuries have derailed the past two seasons for the Steelers. By even reaching out to Long, the Steelers showed they have some reservations about either left tackle Marcus Gilbert or right tackle Mike Adams, especially when the team's precious cap dollars should be spent on more pressing needs like outside linebacker, running back and wide receiver.

Gilbert, who has started at right tackle the past two seasons, is expected to make the move to the left side and take over for Max Starks, and Adams has been penciled in at right tackle. The only other impact left tackle available is New England's Sebastian Vollmer. The Ravens' Bryant McKinnie is a stop-gap option.

The Steelers are usually quiet during free agency and that's primarily because they don't have much cap space. Their history is re-signing their own players or developmental prospects like Joe Long, Jake's younger brother who spent last season on the Steelers' practice squad. But Pittsburgh cleared over $23 million this offseason by restructuring contracts and releasing linebacker James Harrison. In contacting Long, who wasn't going to come cheaply, Pittsburgh is perhaps not as cap-strapped as many believe.

The Steelers have been looking at veteran (and presumably inexpensive) running backs like Ahmad Bradshaw and Beanie Wells. There's also a chance of adding an outside linebacker to replace Harrison and a tight end to fill in for Heath Miller, whose status is uncertain after tearing his ACL late last season. Pittsburgh also might have a decision to make at wide receiver if New England decides to sign Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet.

Let's see if the Steelers have any other surprises in store over the next couple of weeks.
The Ravens are extremely healthy going into Sunday's AFC championship game at New England.

The only player listed on Baltimore's injury report was Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who is probable with an ankle injury. He had a full practice on Friday.

Reed rolled his ankle with 11 seconds remaining in last Sunday's playoff win over the Houston Texans after he leapt to knock down a Hail Mary pass in the end zone.

The Patriots' injury list isn't as short. There are 14 players who are questionable but only offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back and foot) is at risk of missing the game.

New England quarterback Tom Brady wasn't listed on the injury report. He missed Wednesday's practice with a sprained left shoulder and had a full practice on Thursday.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider