AFC North Blog
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a favorable view on WR Markus Wheaton, comparing him to former Steelers and current Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace. "The split end or 'X' position is the home-run hitter, the long-ball man. Think Mike Wallace. Wheaton does not have that kind of speed, but he's fast enough and seems to be a more accomplished route-runner than Wallace was in his second season."
Ravens running back Bernard Pierce returned to practice Saturday after sustaining a concussion in the Ravens' third preseason game last weekend. Pierce has progressed through the concussion protocols and will be in the Ravens' lineup for their Week 1 game against the Bengals. Pierce is expected to start the first two games of the season with RB Ray Rice out due to suspension.
After losing their most productive wide receiver for the entire season earlier this week, the Browns have decided to move on without the most experienced member of their receiving corps. They cut 33-year-old Nate Burleson on Saturday. He missed most of the preseason due to a hamstring injury, and Cleveland chose to go with youngsters Charles Johnson and Willie Snead over him.
The Browns figure to open the regular season with Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins as their top two wideouts.
Browns running back Ben Tate better do something he has never done over three full seasons: stay healthy. If he doesn't, the only insurance Cleveland has for him are a couple of rookies. That's because the Browns released RBs Dion Lewis and Chris Ogbonnaya on Saturday.
Ogbonnaya, who is entering his sixth season, had spent the past three years with the Browns and started 12 games. Lewis is entering his third year and is a typical undersized, change-of-pace runner. But with them gone, third-rounder Terrance West and undrafted free agent Isaiah Crowell are the only two backs currently on the Browns' RB depth chart behind Tate.
Bengals running back Jeremy Hill took 20 carries for 90 yards and caught six passes for 70 yards in the Bengals' Thursday night preseason finale. Hill left the game at one point with an elbow injury, but was able to return to the field. He also missed a block in pass protection that lead to a sack. Overall this preseason, Hill took 41 carries for 190 yards and caught 10 passes for 93 yards. He did not score a touchdown this month.
Now that the last 2014 preseason games have been played, teams are in a rush to trim their rosters down to 53. On Friday, the Bengals moved closer to that number by letting go of veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Green-Ellis had been with the Bengals since 2012 and scored 13 touchdowns in those two seasons. However, his release isn't a major surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. He missed the final two weeks of the preseason due to a hip injury and was obviously usurped by Jeremy Hill, a big back who is a younger, cheaper, fresher version of Green-Ellis.
That headline is the sentiment shared by Geoff Hobson, the editor of the Bengals' official website. He wrote earlier this week that Hill "changed the tenor" of this backfield with his 12-touch, 47-yard preseason performance on Sunday against the Cardinals. Bernard gained only 18 yards on 12 touches in that game.
Hobson added that Hill's powerful style "is going to be a boon against Pittsburgh and Baltimore" and that both players could hit the 200-carry mark this season.
What took so long? Josh Gordon's one-year suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy has been upheld on appeal. The suspension is effective immediately. He won't be able to play this year and will have to file for reinstatement to play in 2015, which will be determined by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley is reporting RB Bernard Pierce has been diagnosed with a concussion. Although details aren't immediately available, Hensley said it was "mild", which drew the ire of some fans, as concussions are never truly mild and should be taken seriously. It's only speculation, but it seems Pierce should still be ready to go in Week 1.
It's a situation to monitor. The Ravens are already thin at RB with Ray Rice suspended for the first two games of the season. If Pierce was to miss time, there would likely be a committee approach of RBs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett.
The Pittsburgh Steelers would probably like to forget their third preseason game altogether versus the Philadelphia Eagles. In particular, Ben Roethlisberger struggled on several plays, notably overthrowing and underthrowing his targets throughout the night. On one pass, he underthrew running back Le'Veon Bell. The ball got swatted into the air and landed incomplete, but it could have been intercepted. He also overthrew and threw behind WR Markus Wheaton multiple times.
In the second quarter, Roethlisberger tried to loft the ball to WR Dri Archer but carelessly overthrew it for an easy interception. Also in the second quarter, Roethlisberger scrambled out of the pocket in 'Big Ben fashion but under threw Antonio Brown, and the pass was again almost intercepted. All in all, it was a touch performance, and head coach Mike Tomlin was visibly not pleased.