AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Steelers


  • The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. thinks the Bengals will target a veteran backup to both help QB Joe Burrow and potentially start if he’s not ready to begin the 2021 season.  
  • Dehner expects the Bengals to move on from WRs A.J. Green and John Ross, with both likely welcoming opportunities elsewhere. He adds Cincinnati could look to add a third receiver in the second wave of free agency or later on in the draft, mentioning Rams WR Josh Reynolds as a potential fit. 
  • How the Bengals proceed with the offensive line is the biggest question for the offseason, per Dehner. This past offseason, they banked on internal improvement, but Dehner thinks they could be more aggressive to protect Burrow, potentially drafting Oregon OT Penei Sewell with their top pick and going after a free agent like Patriots G Joe Thuney.  
  • Dehner notes Bengals G Quinton Spain has played well enough to potentially be re-signed to start next year, while the team could save $5.9 million by moving on from OT Bobby Hart
  • Dehner writes it’s also time for the Bengals and DT Geno Atkins to part ways. Atkins has been ineffective this year and Cincinnati can save $9.6 million by releasing him. He notes the Bengals showed a willingness to spend on the defensive line last offseason, so they could pursue someone like Giants DT Leonard Williams, as well as bringing back DT Mike Daniels and drafting a player. 
  • Dehner thinks the Bengals will re-sign DE Carl Lawson and extend DE Sam Hubbard before the start of next season. At linebacker, Dehner believes the Bengals will bank on development from their young players at the position. 
  • With only Trae Waynes and Darius Phillips under contract, Dehner identifies cornerback as a big need for the Bengals. He thinks they could re-sign Mackensie Alexander to play nickel and then target some other help in the second wave of free agency or the draft. 
  • Bengals CB William Jackson strikes Dehner as someone who wants a fresh start and will be interested in seeing what his options are in free agency. 
  • Bengals WR Auden Tate had successful shoulder surgery and is looking at a recovery timeline of four to six months, with the goal of returning for training camp. (Tom Pelissero)


  • Per’s Mary Kay Cabot, Browns LB Mack Wilson doesn’t have a concussion, WR Taywan Taylor will miss Week 14 with a neck injury and DE Porter Gustin could return from the COVID-19 list this week. 
  • Taylor was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and Gustin was activated from the COVID-19 list. 
  • According to’s Scott Petrak, Browns G Wyatt Teller is a close contact and is eligible to come off the list to play in Week 14 against the Ravens if he continues to test negative. 


  • According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Steelers LB Robert Spillane will miss some time with the knee injury he sustained Monday night, but he won’t need surgery and should be able to return this season. 
  • Steelers HC Mike Tomlin says CB Joe Haden is in the concussion protocol. (Brooke Pryor)
  • Tomlin added RB James Conner, C Maurkice Pouncey and CB Steven Nelson all have a chance to return for the Steelers this coming week. (Pryor)
  • Conner is planning like he will play in Week 14 against the Bills. (Fowler)
  • Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger said his offense is not playing well in the wake of their first loss to Washington: “It starts with me. I need to be better. Sometimes there’s a lack of flow on the offense. Right now we’re not great on offense. We’re not bad, we’re above average, B, B- … there’s room for improvement.” (Brooke Pryor)
  • Tomlin said he did not want to put K Matthew Wright in the position to make a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and instead purposely called a pass play intended for RB Anthony McFarland on fourth and one. (Ray Fittipaldo)

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