Let's talk about the AFC North, which went 0-4 in Week 10.
Hi James, I can't figure out my Steelers. One week they look like contenders and the next week they play like pretenders. Despite the records of Cleveland and Cincy I still believe the AFC North is probably the toughest division to play in. Does Pitt have enough in the tank to get back to the Super Bowl.
It's been that kind of year, Andre. How else do you explain New England getting blown out by the Browns then doing the same to Pittsburgh? The Steelers have the pieces in place to make a run. Every team has holes this year, but Pittsburgh doesn't have many if it stays healthy and plays to its ability. That will be key down the stretch.
Are the Pittsburgh Steelers going to do a repeat of 2009 or are the New England Patriots the best team in the AFC?
I wrote about that Sunday night after the game, Richard. The Steelers are very aware of what happened last year and say they want to stop it. Sunday's game against Oakland will be a good indication of where the Steelers are headed. Ironically, Oakland was one of the teams that beat the Steelers at home last year when they were really struggling.
Ocho Cinco isn't the problem. He just wants to win. And he has a QB that can't get him the ball and an offensive system that doesn't try creative ways to get him involved.
I don't think there is one problem in Cincinnati. From what I'm seeing, it's a team-wide failure with different issues every week. There were a lot of times this year when Ochocinco didn't run the right routes. There are also times when Carson Palmer made baffling throws. The defense has been up and down and the coaching hasn't been stellar, either. If you could put a finger on one issue, the Bengals would've fixed it weeks ago.
James, love your working covering the AFC North! It's interesting to me see how many people said the Steelers were "blown out" by the Pats. But that game would have been much different if two receivers could catch touchdowns and their kicker didn't drag his foot on the field goal!
The Steelers were down 23-3 going into the fourth quarter, Mike. Don't be fooled by the "garbage time" scoring in the final period. Mike Tomlin and all the Steeler players were pretty clear in admitting they were beaten soundly by New England.
Do you think that Cleveland is a WR away from have great offense?
A big-time WR would go a long way, Brian. Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy are nice, young pieces to build around, and the TE combo of Ben Watson and Evan Moore have worked for Cleveland.
Do you see the AFC North title coming down to the last game between the Browns and the Steelers on Jan. 2? With all of the divisions in the NFL so close right now, the AFC North may be the battle to watch as the season starts to close out.
I don't see the Browns being a factor, but the game could be big for Pittsburgh. The Ravens and Steelers are probably going to go down to the wire in both the division title and wild-card race.
What do you think the futures of Mohamed Massaqoi and Brian Robiskie are in Cleveland? I think I can speak for all Browns fans when I say that we're pretty disappointed with their lack of production.
As former second-round picks, they won't be going anywhere. If anything, the Browns may bring in some receivers via the draft and free agency to take over starting roles. These were two big misses in the second round, because the Browns could have helped other positions. I think Massaquoi has more potential than Robiskie, but I don't see him developing into a Pro Bowler.
James what do you think of Colt's arm strength? I thought his two throws to Watson and Moore on the TD drive to send it to ot had a good amount of zip on it.
I need to see more, Brandon, particularly when the weather gets bad later this year. Colt McCoy is known for his accuracy, and he's shown that. Because of that, he doesn't need a cannon. But some zip will help in Cleveland.
What draft needs do you see the Bengals having next year? Is this the year to find a suitor for Palmer?
The Bengals are going to be a very interesting team this offseason, because you're probably going to see a lot of changes. I wrote a few weeks ago that it was time to blow this team up, and many Bengals fans were upset. Now I'm getting emails saying I was right all along. I think their biggest need is a dominant pass rusher, whether it's at DE or OLB. They could use a DeMarcus Ware-type on that defense. But the priority can always change depending on what the Bengals decide to do with Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, T.O., Johnathan Joseph, etc.
How can you say you don't see the Browns being a factor...
The question was could the Steelers-Browns game be for a playoff spot. I don't view see it that way. I think the Steelers and Ravens will be battling for playoff seeding. The Browns will be more of a spoiler.
From What I've heard about Suisham, he was very unreliable throughout his career. Do you think he is any better than Jeff Reed?
Reed has been better throughout the course of his career. But this season, he was off. Reed already missed seven kicks in nine games, so the Steelers felt it was time for a change. In terms of Suisham, you're not going to get any big names off the street this late in the season. Pittsburgh went with who it thought was the best of the lot.
Did Jeff Reed's offseason issues have anything to do with his release?
It added to the equation, yes. But poor performance was the biggest reason.
Can you tell me a little about the development of Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis? One of them has to be better than William Gay who I've watched give up touchdown after touchdown to opposing teams?
I've always liked Lewis' size and athleticism. He doesn't get much game action, so I can't speak on that part too much. Lewis also got in the doghouse early in the preseason and never worked his way out. Burnett got a shot last year and didn't produce, and on a team like Pittsburgh you have to step up when your number is called or you will quickly fall to the back of the line.
Who do you think will be the 2010 AFC North Champions?
I picked the Baltimore Ravens at the beginning of the year. I don't change prediction at midseason. I think that's weak.
Can the Steelers make any moves on the left side of the offensive line? It looks like Scott just cant handle the position.
I felt putting Flozell Adams on the left side, where he played most of his career in Dallas, was a safer move. But Steelers O-line coach Sean Kuglar really believes in Jonathan Scott. I thought Scott had a rough game at left tackle against New England. Pittsburgh may want to reconsider.
You have to give Holmgren credit for drafting McCoy in the 3rd round. That looks brilliant right now. However, at the same time you have to remember that he paid Delhome $7million this year. Do these come out in a wash or is Holmgren still ahead?
I'd say ahead. Cleveland likely found its long-term solution at quarterback for many years, while wasting a lot of money for one season on Jake Delhomme.
James, the ravens have to be concerned with their secondary, teams have exploited that because they can't run on them (unless your hillis) and what would happen if they played manning in the first round of the playoffs Hmm?
Secondary is definitely an issue and something we will look into later in the week in the AFC North blog. The Ravens say they have "four or five starting cornerbacks." But really, they may have one. All of those CBs have struggled at different times this year. They just seem a step or two late too often.
what are the chances the bengals pick up jeff reed?
The Bengals already signed a kicker today: Aaron Pettey, who is an undrafted rookie from Ohio State. Jeff Reed is obviously better, but Pettrey won't cost anything and the Bengals are 2-7 anyway.
Also, what is up with Eric Wright this season?
Wright is having some bad games this year. I thought last season he was pretty consistent in coverage. But Wright is not very physical and his coverage has been waning.
Any updates on Timmons? And if he's out this week can Foote come in and play lock down to help the struggling defense?
Lawrence Timmons has a hip pointer. We won't know for sure his status until later in the week. Larry Foote would start, and he knows the defense well.
James, moving forward the Ravens will lose certain pieces from this year's offensive team (McGahee, Heap, Houshamanzadeh, how effective will a 36 year old Mason be). Is it imperative the Ravens make a push with the most talent on offense Baltimore has seen since the days of Unitas and Berry?
The Ravens have plenty of young talent (Flacco, Rice, Ngata) but they are definitely built to win this year. Baltimore has the pieces to make a run if it puts it all together. They will figure out their direction in the offseason when the time comes.
Hey James! If Pittsburgh heads into the playoffs, is Willie Colon eligible to play?
No. Willie Colon was put on IR and is out for the year. DE Aaron Smith is still on the active roster, which is why he's eligible to come back if healthy.
I disagree with the Delhomme assessment. I think he was overpaid, but I don't feel it was a complete waste of money even if McCoy finishes the year. He will be a good mentor once McCoy hits his rookie wall.
If one start, one TD and four INTs from Jake Delhomme is worth $7 million to you, Joseph, I'm glad you're not running my team.
JW, do you think the Bengals will resign Joseph in the offseaon? I think he is the most important pending FA on the team...
The Bengals have had negotiations with Johnathan Joseph, but nothing has come to fruition. I think he's the team's top UFA, considering his talent and age. Good CBs are making top dollar now, and I'm not sure the Bengals are willing to pay. We will see.
Do you think Holmgren is still running the Browns next year or is he heading back to the sideline, whether the Browns, Cowboys or some other team. He has hinted he wants to coach again.
I don't see why there's been some questions about Mike Holmgren staying in Cleveland. There has been no indication of him leaving. Holmgren was paid a lot of money to turn the Browns around, and he will be back next year. Whether he will coach the team next year remains to be seen. I would say it's a possibility, but not a certainty.
What do you think about the new Kicker for the Steelers? is he good?
I've seen Shaun Suisham kick in Dallas and Washington and I wasn't impressed. It's rare to get a stud player off the street this time of year. So Steelers fans should tailor their expectations.
OK so its Movie day with my girlfriend today and its her pick. She told me we're going to watch "Meet Dave." Really?! HELP!! How can I get her to change the movie without insulting her ability to judge quality movies?
Tell her to pick the place for dinner tonight, and you get to pick the movie. Next time, you alternate. That should save you for now. But you're probably going to see "Meet Dave" next time anyway.
So the jeff reed era in pittsburgh ends just like this? he was at one time one of the most popular steelers of my generation. he even had a got milk billboard on the highway coming into town.
It's a rough league, Tony. The San Diego Chargers parted ways with LaDainian Tomlinson this offseason, who was the face of the franchise. Teams/players have to perform.
James, who is out the door first, Carson Palmer or Marvin Lewis?
If I had to pick one, right now, I would say Marvin Lewis is less likely to return next year. Palmer still has four years left on his contract. Lewis will be a coaching free agent.
Everyone, thanks for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates, news and analysis on the division.