Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Hello, everyone. It was a fun weekend of games. So let's talk about everything in the AFC North.
Mike (Halifax, NS Canada)
James, love the blog. Would it have made any sense for the Steelers (after being backed up to the goalline) to take a safety and kick off rather than punting from the end zone?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Tough call, Mike, but this is why coaches make the big money. I don't have an issue with the Steelers punting, because a safety would have allowed the Ravens to win by a FG. Mike Tomlin felt Baltimore would struggle to score a TD, and against that defense that is a sound strategy. The penalty hurt more than anything to put the ball on the 40 yardline.
How about TJ Ward? Looks like the Browns finally hit on a early draft pick.
James Walker (4:03 PM)
The Browns have hit on early picks before. Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are the most recent examples. But Ward so far looks like the best player from Cleveland's 2010 draft class. Of course, that can change in the next couple of years.
Chas of steel (ca)
Why are Joe Flacco and the Ravens being praised as much as they are for beating the Steelers this weekend? Joe Flacco has YET to beat the Steelers when BIG BEN is in the game. The Ravens last 2 victories over the Steelers came against a 3d and 4th string QB
James Walker (4:05 PM)
People can't have it both ways. Everyone praised how great the Steelers were when they were 3-0 and still winning without Ben Roethlisberger. So it's not fair to say the Steelers were not a good team now that they lost with a backup QB. That's not fair to the Steelers or the Ravens, who are both off to great starts.
What is happening with the Browns secondary? It was supposed to be a strength, but in consecutive weeks Wright and then Brown get torched embarrassingly. How is Haden coming along?
James Walker (4:07 PM)
The secondary is young and inexperienced, and it's showing in games. Ward and Haden are learning on the job and Eric Wright is still pretty young, as well, and making mistakes. Sheldon Brown was playing decent until last week when Owens torched him pretty bad. But every DB has a bad game in this league. The Browns are just taking turns throughout the secondary.
What is the biggest reason the Browns have been unable to close out games in the fourth quarter?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
Browns fans don't like when I say this, but it's a talent issue. The fourth quarter is when the best and most athletic and talented players often rise to the top. The Browns don't have enough of those players on their roster and usually fall short. Even the Bengals, who played awful throughout, nearly pulled it off in the fourth because they have better players.
Do you think Hillis will continue to be effective?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
As long as he runs hard behind the left side of that offensive line he will be productive. Teams will stack against Hillis more now, but he's a good player.
mike (new jersey)
do the broncos have a shot against the ravens? The offense is playing at a high level along with a very good secondary
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Yes, the Broncos have a shot. This is a dangerous spot for the Ravens coming off a big win against Pittsburgh. It was a physical game and there could be a hangover effect. I think Baltimore's maturity will be tested this week. It was easy to get up for Pittsburgh.
Larry Craig (Idaho)
What is the problem with Carson Palmer's mechanics? He seems to set up with a wide stance in the pocket. Doesn't a wide stance inhibit his mobility? A wide stance would seem to make him more vulnerable to a textbook bull rush?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
Often when a QB loses sight of his mechanics, there is a level of mistrust going on. This is just my opinion, but from what I've seen Carson doesn't trust his pass protection and sometimes doesn't trust his WRs will be in the right spots. That could change with better chemistry
Mike (Acworth GA)
Do you think with Big Ben back in the line up the Steelers try to go a little more pass heavy or are they onto that proven Steeler formula for success of running and playing stout defense?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
The Steelers will definitely pass more than the first four weeks. The question now is how much? I thought Pittsburgh was too pass heavy last season. Mendenhall had 1000 yards but still didn't get enough carries. I think Bruce Arians has a better feel for Mendenhall after making him the star the past month. So Pittsburgh should be more balanced.
Ryan Morrison (WNST) (Baltimore)
Love the blog J Dub. Do you agree with me that the main reasons for the Ravens winning on sunday was how well Baltimore controlled the trenches. Haloti Ngata was unstopable, and the offensive line gave Joe enough time to find the open receivers
James Walker (4:20 PM)
Good observations, Ryan. Baltimore's O-line played as well as I've seen it all year and against an elite front seven of Pittsburgh. I've been big on Ngata for years and it's good to see he's finally getting his respect as one of the best DL in the game. He was tough to block Sunday, and he's still young and will only get better.
How does Baltimore beat the Jets and Steelers on the road and still get put below them in the power rankings? It is still early enough in the season that head to head wins should matter.
James Walker (4:22 PM)
I voted Baltimore ahead of the Jets, but behind the Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger coming back, Pittsburgh is now at full strength.
how important is this win for manginis future in cleveland?
James Walker (4:23 PM)
It certainly buys Eric Mangini time. I don't see Mike Holmgren having the quick hook anyway, but having zero wins at this point would not look good. Now the Browns have to keep the momentum going.
The Buck (Cleveland)
Can the Browns continue to go to the slate with power and pick up another win this weekend? Who QB's??
James Walker (4:24 PM)
The "slate with power" statement is back! Very cool. Jake Delhomme is the starter, if healthy, and he's very close to coming back. He has a chance to practice tomorrow, which will be a good sign for him.
Jon (Fort Lauderdale)
James, do you think that the Steelers will use the game against the Browns to let Ben get his timing back and throw it around all game, or will they hand off the majority of the time letting him adjust to game speed again? Which will be more important to his returning to dominance?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
I anticipate the Steelers running their offense how they want to run it this year with Ben. Pittsburgh has a bye week to work off the rust.
Jon (Fort Lauderdale)
James, do you think it is a little premature for Clayton to call Flacco elite?
James Walker (4:29 PM)
I'm not big on using the "elite" title for a lot of things in the NFL. I like Joe Flacco's abilities and think he's a good quarterback, but I wouldn't use the term "elite."
Clarence the Steeler fan in B'more (MD)
I thought that despite a couple of sacks that the Steeler's oline played a great game. Am I wrong here?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Sacks can't be the only measure. QB Charlie Batch was scrambling and hit a lot Sunday. Rashard Mendenhall also avg. just 3.2 yards per carry. Baltimore won the battle in the trenches.
Anthony (Business Stats Class)
Overall, how did Pouncey look against the Ravens? I know it seemed like the Ravens were playing in our backfield all day.
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Maurkice Pouncey struggled for the first time, but that's expected as a rookie. This was his biggest test to date, and guys like Ngata, Gregg and Cody got the best of him in this game.
Do you think Cinci should put in Scott instead of Benson?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
I think Cedric Benson should remain the starter with Bernard Scott getting a few more carries.
Brian (Dover, DE)
Who has been the Steelers MVP on offense thus far? Mendenhall?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
Yes. Rashard Mendenhall is second in the NFL in rushing, proof that power football is still possible in Pittsburgh.
Jon (Fort Lauderdale)
Do you like Benson's chances this week to rack up the fantasy points against Tampa?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
If you have better options at RB, I would consider it right now. Because the Bengals are confused on their identity. Eventually, they will figure it out, but playing Benson right now is a risk.
I love the term "go to the slate with power"!! Can you please utilize it in one of your articles??
James Walker (4:37 PM)
As soon as I figure out what it means, I might.
Big Ski (Pgh, Pa )
James, love the blog... Why aren't more holding penalties called on Tackles that go against James Harrison? Seems every week it's all you see, but yet, nothing is called?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Every year we get this complaint in the AFC North blog. But if you've read long enough, I try to stay away from officiating issues unless it's really, really bad. Terrell Suggs' roughing call on Carson Palmer was an example. But every team is the victim of officiating during the season and I don't want turn the blog into a crying contest every week.
Brian (Dover, DE)
James, what are the odds Cleveland shocks the Steelers in 2 weeks?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I don't see it. Some would say it's almost unfair the NFL gave Pittsburgh two weeks to prepare for the Browns.
Ocho Cinco (Cinn.)
Why won't my boy Palmer toss me the ball? Maybe I am Robin and TO is Batman?? can somebody, please, give me a triple Oy Vey!!!
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Chad, I know you always think you're open. But the Browns double-teamed you a ton on Sunday. There is a reason "Batman" got so many looks against single coverage. That's the way it goes sometimes.
What is going on with Rice? He doesn't seem to be having as much success running the ball. He needs to "go to the slate" with power.
James Walker (4:45 PM)
Ray Rice is hurt right now and working his way back. I also think playing against pretty good defenses made an impact. BTW, questions from now on should include "going to the slate with power."
I don't think it's a crying contest when we're talking about one a player's abilities and hard work being negated by the officials letting the tackles cheat to stop him.
James Walker (4:47 PM)
I understand, Pat. But my point is every week we will be talking about X team being the victim of X call. And every week we will just change the team which was the victim. There are hundreds of things to write about, and I choose not to run the blog like that.
Since Vick is injured, I'm thinking about dropping him for Big Ben. Good or bad move? Considering the fact that Vick has single handedly carried my fantasy team, I think it may be a bad move.
James Walker (4:48 PM)
If you can pick up Ben Roethlisberger for your fantasy team, I would do it ASAP. He was the best QB in training camp from what I've seen. But it may take a couple games to get back to form.
Darrell (Arlington TX)
Whats the deal with Evan Moore, he isnt making the impact in the passing game I thought he would this year?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
Moore is a backup, but he's making plays. He caught a nice TD last week against Cincinnati. Moore is going to be a good player. The Browns just have QB issues where the passing game isn't very explosive.
JMO (Bed Stuy)
Peyton Hillis has really been going to the slate with power recently. Who's his counterpart on the Browns defense so far?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
Probably T.J. Ward. Both players bring the punishment when they hit people. Ward needs to chill on the late hits, though.
Brian (Grassflat, PA)
James, why does Heath Miller's production seem to be down so far?
James Walker (4:55 PM)
Pittsburgh's QB issues have hurt both Miller and Hines Ward. They make their living making tough catches over the middle of the field. But QBs Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon were so conservative that they rarely took those chances. Oftentimes Pittsburgh either ran or threw deep against one-on-one coverage. Ben Roethlisberger's return will help Miller and Ward.
Do you think the Steelers have the best defense in the NFL? Every week they've been "going to the slate with power" and now have the best running defense and the most turnovers.
James Walker (4:57 PM)
Yes, as long as Troy Polamalu is back there I do think the Steelers are the best D. The stats right now may say otherwise, but you cannot measure how much pressure was on Pitt's D week to week to force turnovers and shutdown opponents. That has to be factored in.
If the Browns had gone to the slate with power in the 4th quarter of all their games when they had the lead, would they be undefeated?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
The Browns did not go to the slate with power in any fourth quarter this season. They've been competitive in every game, but I wouldn't go as far to say they should be undefeated. Cleveland has a chance to really impress people Sunday, though, if the Browns can beat the Falcons. Atlanta is a really good team.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone thanks again for your great questions. We will "go to the slate with power" again next week.