AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

 

Bengals

Bengals’ HC Zac Taylor is trying to remain optimistic and stay positive for the team’s future, which was temporarily derailed by the season-ending injury suffered by their franchise QB Joe Burrow.

“You have two choices,” Taylor said, via Jay Morrison of The Athletic. “You can look at the negative side or the positive side. You wake up every day with that choice. So you have some tremendous people here that we believe in. We’re going to get this thing right. It’s been tough sledding these last couple of weeks. But it’s not hard to make that choice every day when you wake up. You’ve only got two of them, and I’m always going to choose the positive side and keep pulling these guys forward.”

The Bengals’ second-round pick WR Tee Higgins has been a bright spot and is on pace to set the franchise record for rookie receptions. Another is that WR A.J. Green is one touchdown catch away from tying WR Chad Johnson for the franchise record.

“I didn’t know I was on pace for that,” Higgins said. “If I get it, have my name in the history books as a Bengal it will be a dream come true to have my name in the history books here. It’s my favorite team. It would be an honor. I haven’t really set any goals in things like that, but you know it would be really good to finish at the top in that category. There’s a lot of great, great rookie receivers out here, and it would be good to have my name at the top.”

  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the Bengals could make some sense as a landing spot for Saints QB Jameis Winston next season. Cincinnati might need someone to start a couple of weeks at the beginning of the season while Burrow heals, and Winston needs a place that will let him both start and hit free agency the following season. 
  • Taylor said to “check back next week” about RB Joe Mixon potentially coming off injured reserve for the Bengals. (Ben Baby)
  • Bengals CB Trae Waynes, who’s on injured reserve with a torn pectoral suffered during training camp, is not expected back in 2020. (Baby)

Browns

Browns QB Baker Mayfield‘s particular brand of swagger makes him the type of player many either love or hate. Giants HC Joe Judge, whose team will face off against Mayfield’s Browns Sunday night, falls in the former category. 

“Obviously, I’ve watched this guy for several years,” Judge said via Mark Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “The thing that stands out about him above all is this guy is an elite competitor. He really is. He’s a tough dude. You know his story. How he went through college, had to walk on twice, earn two starting jobs. Look, it’s no coincidence this guy is having tremendous success in the National Football League. I love the f-ing attitude he plays with, I love the chippiness he plays with.”

  • Browns HC Kevin Stefanski said they’re confident in OL Chris Hubbard if G Wyatt Teller (ankle) can’t go Sunday: “He’s a swing guy at four positions and if we asked him to snap the ball he could probably do that too.” (Cabot)

Ravens

  • Per the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Ravens OC Greg Roman said even if he’s not getting a lot of touches, RB Mark Ingram is still an important part of the team: “Mark is an extremely valuable leader. Just because he didn’t get a lot of snaps doesn’t mean he won’t get a lot of snaps. He’s very valuable to us. Things just unfolded the way they did. It’s an opportunity for him to stay fresh and get ready for late-season push.”

Steelers

The Steelers lost their second straight game this past week, dropping 26-15 to the Buffalo Bills and losing their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which also means losing out on the only bye in the NFL’s new seven-team playoff format. However, QB Ben Roethlisberger urged fans not to panic. 

“The season is not over,” Roethlisberger said via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “I want everyone out there to just take a deep breath. I know it’s kind of crazy right now. I just want everyone to take a deep breath. We’ve got time. That’s my mindset too.”

Pittsburgh has been hit hard with injuries concentrated to specific positions like linebacker and offensive line, which are always harder to overcome. The offense has also regressed in recent weeks and struggled to move the ball efficiently. But Roethlisberger added some context to the challenge the Steelers currently face. 

“We have guaranteed ourselves a chance at the playoffs. We’re in the postseason. We have three weeks now to get it going, to turn it around, to give ourselves the best chance to reach our ultimate goal, which is winning a Super Bowl,” Roethlisberger said. “If we were starting the postseason tomorrow, maybe there would be a little bit more panic on our part.

“… We still have some work to do, to kind of get ourselves out of this lull that we’re in because, like you say, every team has them. It just so happens that ours is happening right now. It’s not too late for us.”

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