AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers


While there are months of speculation leading up the draft, the truth is most teams don’t finalize their boards until a week or two before the start of the event. However, in the case of the Bengals and QB Joe Burrow, which was the most locked-in No. 1 pick in recent memory, that was officially finalized just before April 1. 

“Everybody got to speak,” said Bengals de-facto GM Duke Tobin said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “Everybody was on the same page. It was universal agreement in that meeting. No doubters. No detractors. It was basically, This is the guy that this whole group sees as No. 1. We think it’s clear. Here are the reasons.”

Now that Burrow is in the fold, the attention for the Bengals turns to putting him in the best possible chance to succeed. With the ongoing shutdowns from the pandemic impacting what would usually be rookie minicamps and spring OTA work, Bengals HC Zac Taylor said getting Burrow and the other rookies physical reps against NFL competition will be a challenge. 

“We’re going to have to find a way to manufacture a lot of the physical reps that we could potentially be missing out on all spring,” Taylor said via NBC Sports’ Peter King. “If you’re taking a guy that you don’t trust has the work ethic, and the consistency in his daily approach to do that on his own, then you’re going to have problems. We’ve seen this coming for a couple weeks now what this offseason may look like and feel very comfortable that we can handle things virtually on our end, teach him what it should look like, show him on film what it should look like, and then have the trust factor that he’s going to find a way to be creative and manufacture in his backyard, in a field next to his house. . . .That’s not just Joe. That’s Tee Higgins. That’s all these guys. We’re going to have to really challenge them: Be creative in how you’ll approach this.”



  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec notes that WR Denzel Mims being taken one pick before potentially prompted the Ravens to trade back from No. 60 in the second round. 
  • He adds the Ravens are optimistic WR Miles Boykin can take a step forward in his second season. 
  • Zrebiec thinks if the Ravens add a veteran, LB Pernell McPhee is someone to keep an eye on. He hasn’t heard that things are that hot between Baltimore and free-agent LB Clay Matthews.
  • The signing of LB Jake Ryan is still pending a physical, per Zrebiec.
  • Zrebiec mentions the Texans’ $22 million-per-year deal for LT Laremy Tunsil did them no favors in their negotiations with LT Ronnie Stanley


Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is excited to play with receiver Chase Claypool during the upcoming season and spoke with him over the phone after he was drafted.

“I honestly don’t know much about Chase other than his numbers and size, but excited,” Roethlisberger said in an email to The Athletic. “I heard he’s a good, hard-working guy and a great teammate. I’m sure he’s excited to get to come share a (wide receivers meeting) room and learn from a great player like JuJu.”

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert spoke about adding RB Anthony McFarland in the fourth round, after passing up on RB J.K. Dobbins earlier in the draft.

“We were able to add a running back that gives us a little changeup characteristic, different from the guys we have,’’ Colbert said. “He has really good vision, one-step cut quickness and very good finish speed. He’s had a lot of big runs just finding that crease, or finding a bounce to the outside where he could finish.”

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