AFC Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals’ GM Duke Tobin said earlier this week that the door is still open for DT Geno Atkins to return to Cincinnati at a lower deal after his release last month.

“Geno is one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the best defensive tackles of the last decade,” Tobin said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “He gave us what he had last year … We’ll see if there are things that can be worked out. If it is, great. If not, I think we’ve got other guys that can fill the role.”

Ravens

Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster said the Ravens heavily recruited him this offseason prior to him re-signing with Pittsburgh. According to Smith-Schuster, Lamar Jackson and Marlon Humphrey both reached out to him. 

“Lamar reached out, the head coach called, Marlon Humphrey‘s hitting me up,” said Smith-Schuster, via Jamison Hensley. “It starts getting serious when the players start texting you, ‘Yo, what’s up, bro? Come win.’ All respect to them, and it was cool.”

Smith-Schuster called Baltimore’s offense “run-heavy,” pointing out that TE Mark Andrews was their No. 1 receiving option. 

“Lamar [Jackson]’s a really, a heavy run offense with the backs that he has. I just, just point being facts,” said Smith-Schuster, via Hensley. “His No. 1 target was [Mark] Andrews, who’s a tight end.”

Steelers

Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert thinks that QB Ben Roethlisberger can still deliver in Pittsburgh and has faith he will be playing at a high level this coming season.

“He really did do some special things,”  Colbert said, via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “At the beginning of the year, we talked about watching what he was doing because he was doing some incredible feats as we were building that 11-0 record. A lot of that was him performing at crucial times in games. Down the stretch, we didn’t play as well around him. We didn’t play as good of defense, obviously, we talked about the running game failing us in a time of the year where the running game is critical. Can he still do some special things? Absolutely. We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team.”

Colbert also brought up the fact that backup QB Mason Rudolph gives the Steelers plenty of reason to feel positive in the case that Roethlisberger was unavailable.

“I can even go back to 2019 and Mason started eight games and he finished the season 5-3 or finished those eight games with a 5-3 record,” Colbert said. “The game he started, it was probably the best game he has played for us. Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short. But it was very encouraging to see Mason play as we did in a tough situation.”

Colbert isn’t the only one who feels confident in Roethlisberger’s abilities, as Steelers’ HC Mike Tomlin still continues to stand behind Big Ben even after all these years.

“I can’t say enough about his performance this year,” Tomlin said. “With the uncertainly coming off of injury, and particularly not having an opportunity to perform in preseason games and so forth, there really was a high level of concern about his health and his ability to perform. I can’t say enough about his efforts … in terms of him responding to the challenges that he specifically came into the season ready to face, spectacular.”

  • Kaboly notes that the Steelers don’t have a quarterback under contract past this season, as Roethlisberger’s contract voids five days after the Super Bowl.
  • He adds that both Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are also set to become free agents, yet thinks that Rudolph’s best chance to start again will likely come in Pittsburgh. This means that Rudolph would be inclined to sign an extension with the Steelers.
  • Kaboly also thinks that the former first-round pick Haskins could turn his career around, yet the Steelers would be unwilling to bank on that.
  • As for how long Roethlisberger could stay, Kaboly tells fans that while they might not want to hear it, he may be their best option even in 2022.

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