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Walker's weekend mailbag: Roster battles

8/14/2011

Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Chris from Bay City, Mich., wants to know which running backs will make the team for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

James Walker: Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are locks, Chris. From there, I think Mewelde Moore makes the team as the third running back because he's a proven veteran. Rookie seventh-round pick Baron Batch would have pushed Moore for the final spot. But Batch's knee injury knocked him out for the season.


A.J. from Pittsburgh writes: Do you think it's time for the Steelers to cut Byron Leftwich, or at least demote him to third string? It doesn't seem to make sense to have a player who is so completely different from Ben Roethlisberger backing him up.

Walker: The Steelers can't think on those terms, A.J. Quarterback is such an important position that you have to take the best three players. Leftwich is one of the team's top three quarterbacks. So he will likely make the team. The wild card is Dennis Dixon, who might be the second-best quarterback on the team but could be trade bait if injuries occur and teams are desperate. If Dixon sticks, he will battle Leftwich for the backup job.


Adam Bro from West Chester, Ohio, writes: I am a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan and I am wondering who do you think will be the starting quarterback on opening day?

Walker: Andy Dalton is the guy, Adam. The Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis feel confident this team can handle a rookie quarterback. The Bengals are hitting the reset button this season. There are a lot of young players and you saw the result in last week's 34-3 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions. There will be some growing pains.


Andy Levy from Bel Air, Md., writes: James, has Carson Palmer officially retired? If he did, I don't remember hearing anything about it.

Walker: Andy, Palmer is unofficially, officially retired, if that makes sense. Palmer did not fill out any paperwork. So he can return to Cincinnati at any point. The problem is Palmer has no intention to report, and the Bengals won't trade him. So Palmer is retired for now. The Bengals put Palmer on the "did not report" list at the start of training camp.


Knight91 from Tomah, Wis., writes: What's up with the Baltimore Ravens' O-line?

Walker: It's not a good situation, Knight91. The tackles are really struggling. Michael Oher doesn't look to be a natural left tackle and Baltimore is searching for answers at right tackle. Center Matt Birk also is hurt in the middle. There are no easy answers to fix this group.


Tre James from Las Vegas writes: Will the Baltimore Ravens make the playoffs this season?

Walker: Yes, Tre. The Ravens will win the AFC North, too, according to my prediction.


Kosar fan from Newport, Ky., writes: How much of a role do you think Cleveland Browns receiver Greg Little will actually play?

Walker: Little’s role is still to be determined, Kosar fan. It's really up to him. Little is probably Cleveland's most athletic receiver. He's also getting a lot of reps with Mohamed Massaquoi injured. But Little has to shake some rust. He's had a lot of drops in camp.


Steve Y. from Wickliffe, Ohio, writes: What do you think the Browns chances are at a playoff run?

Walker: The Browns will not make a playoff run this season, Steve. Cleveland is gradually adding young players and is at least two years away.

Comment and complaint department

John Owens from Dayton, Ohio, writes: I'm only 25 years old but I have been a Bengals fan since 1992. The culture of the Bengals must change. So basically this LOOSING cloud has to go away and we have young talent and some prospects. How long will it take to win again and when will we get speed on defense? When will things get better? Also, what happens if we don’t win now or make moves to keep things in tact on offense and defense?

Walker: John, I'm getting a lot of frustrated emails and tweets from "Bengaldom" after Cincinnati's lackluster performance against Detroit. I've never seen so many fans in the AFC North blog immediately write off their team after the first preseason game. The sense I get is this reaction is deeper than Friday's game. Bengals fans are just tired of the losing and the first preseason game perpetuated their fears of another long season. The Bengals are rebuilding but I wouldn't overreact to any preseason game.


Scott from Spokane, Wash., writes: Thanks for "jinxing" Baron Batch for Steeler Nation!!! The same day you anoint him Camp Sleeper, he gets hurt. The good news for Steelers fans is you picked the Ravens to win the AFC North!

Walker: I received several emails and tweets claiming I jinxed Batch. That's not true. The turf monster got Batch, not me. I wrote about dozens of players in the blog last week who didn't get injured.


Aaron Tull from Bloomington, Il., writes: Sorry James, love the blog, but you got this one wrong. The Ravens took a step sideways, not back, but certainly not forward in regards to the running back situation. Rice is scary, even for my Steelers he is scary. But Ricky Williams is not an upgrade over McGahee, who was a great downhill runner and a starter quality backup IMO. Leach is perhaps a better blocker than McClain, but not as dynamic a player.

Walker: I respect your take, Aaron. We can agree to disagree. Right now I would take Rice, Leach and Williams over Rice, McClain and McGahee. Leach is a much better blocking fullback and knows his role. Williams is more productive than McGahee at this stage of their careers.


AFC North Homers of the Week

We have two Bengals fans who earned Co-Homer of the Week honors.

Enjoy.

Jason writes: Bengals ranked No. 32! Well, that is a joke because we are better than so many teams in the league and I am happy to list them. Bills, Panthers, Redskins, Browns, Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, Titans, Seahawks, Lions, Cowboys. That puts us at the 19-20 spot. You make sure to watch some games and by Week 5 you will be eating crow.

Who Dey Fever In The Desert from Phoenix, Ariz., writes: J. Walk, as much of a homer as I will most likely sound here, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say 10-6 for the Bengals and tied for first in the AFC North with the Steelers. I guarantee a 2,250 yard, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season for Andy Dalton, and 1,100 yards, 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns for A.J. Green. Finally, the Bengals will advance past the wildcard and eventually lose to the Steelers in the divisional round. Green wins OROY, the defense finishes fifth or better, and the Bengals are the division favorite next year. Bring it!! Who Dey all day!!!

Walker: Jason, ESPN.com's Power Rankings is looking pretty accurate with Cincinnati after one preseason game. Who Dey Fever, I've been saying all offseason the Bengals are at least two years away from contending, if not more. Bengals fans saw some of that harsh reality in last week’s preseason opener. Congrats on being our Co-Homer of the Week.

If you have any questions, comments or complains, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.