AFC Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers


Bengals WR Tee Higgins said his goal was to improve his strength over the offseason and spent the majority of his time “in the weight room.”

“My biggest thing was to get that stronger. I didn’t do any routes, I didn’t run. I was just really in the weight room for the most part,” Higgins said, via Geoff Hobson of the team’s official site. “Then, once I was able to actually get on the field and do like a workout or something I just went out there and it felt good. And then I just felt like I had to get stronger so I focused a little bit more on the weight room as well again. Now I’m weighing like 220 and it feels good. Last year I came in at like 220 and it was too heavy for me, so I had to lose a few pounds. Now it feels really good and I feel even faster.”

Higgins feels like the game has slowed down for him and feels a firm understanding of the Begnals’ system. 

“Everything is just way slower to me,” Higgins said. “I know the playbook really well and this offseason I was able to prepare my body the right way for the season and for these first little few weeks of OTAs so that’s the main thing right now.”

Bengals HC Zac Taylor had high praise of Higgins and feels he’s become one of the “most detailed receivers” on the roster. 

“I’ve seen Tee come back in outstanding shape. He’s one of our most detailed receivers,” Taylor said. “He’s got a really high football IQ. It all makes sense to him. He wants to be detailed. I’m really excited to see what’s in store for him. We got a good receiving corps but I think Tee has been really impressive so far this offseason.”


Regarding the Ravens trading OT Orlando Brown to the Chiefs, TE Mark Andrews feels it is “extremely sad” to see Brown go but is excited for the offensive tackle’s future in Kansas City.

“It’s extremely sad,” Andrews said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the team’s official site. “We’re going to miss him. I’m excited for his future, but at the end of the day, he’s a Raven for life.

Andrews, who is entering the final year of his contract, said he’s like to retire as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. 

I want to be here for the rest of my life,” Andrews said. “This is home for me.”

Ravens HC John Harbaugh said that Andrews “looks really good” in practice and praised his route running. 

“Mark looks really good,” said Harbaugh. “I told him today, I really feel like he’s running routes the best I’ve seen him run routes since he’s been here.”

  • The Panthers are discussing holding joint practices with the Ravens during training camp. (Joseph Person)


Steelers QB Mason Rudolph may not have given Pittsburgh gobs of confidence that he could be a long-term answer when pressed into the starting job in 2019. But in fairness to Rudolph, he might not have been set up for success. As a rookie in 2018, he worked as the third-stringer the entire season and could only take reps through the team’s virtual reality system after practice. He didn’t have the benefit of a full-time quarterback coach until just last season with Matt Canada, who’s now the offensive coordinator. If Rudolph is pressed into starting duty again in 2022 or sooner, he feels much more prepared. 

“Having Matt Canada, having a quarterback coach helped me take steps forward and develop and have that confidant week-to-week to go to and ask questions,” Rudolph said via the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. “All but one game I was slotted to be the backup and he was still like ‘what are favorites, what are your top 10 dropback concepts, RPOs, play-action and just going through the mental gymnastics of preparing yourself knowing that there is a plan in place if I have to play and it can be a smooth transition.”

  • Steelers LB Devin Bush says his knee is about 80-90 percent as he works back from the torn ACL he suffered last year. (Brooke Pryor)
  • Bush stayed in Pittsburgh this offseason to rehab the injury: “I thought it was a good idea to be with the guys, be with the organization. They made a big investment on me. To track my progress and be with me every step of the way.” (Pryor)
  • Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster explained why he turned down a chance to play with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes: “Patrick Mahomes is a great QB and he will be for the next decade, but I think it’s a loyalty to my coaches and my quarterback.” (Pryor)
  • Smith-Schuster also turned down a deal with the Ravens to take a one-year, $8 million deal with Pittsburgh: “I’m looking at the bigger picture, going into next year. I already knew if I went to the Ravens, fans would’ve destroyed me. Going to the Chiefs, they have a great offense, playing with Tyreek and Travis, but I’ve got to do what’s best for me. That’s staying home.” (Pryor)
  • He added he’s banking on having a better market next year when the cap goes back up which is why he took a one-year deal: “Most definitely. My value is my value. With everything that happened, this year was different with the cap being low. Next year, hopefully the cap will be so much bigger. Knowing I’ll be on the market again and every team will want to offer something with my value.” (Pryor)
  • Smith-Schuster mentioned his biggest goal this season is to play on the outside more instead of just primarily in the slot. (Aditi Kinkhabwala)

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