AFC Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers


The Bengals fell just a game short of the Super Bowl, but in league circles their future is seen as bright thanks to the brilliance of QB Joe Burrow. Still, success isn’t assured. Hall of Fame Dolphins QB Dan Marino reached the Super Bowl in his second season and lost. He never made it back and Miami missed the playoffs in seven of the next 15 seasons. To avoid a similar fate, the Bengals have to keep building around Burrow, especially on the offensive line. 

“Just keep drafting well,” a long-time personnel evaluator told Fansided’s Matt Lombardo. “Not just first-rounders, but finding talent in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds who can come in, make the team, and help you either as starters, quality backups, or special teams players. [They] are building a really good nucleus, and those quarterbacks aren’t going anywhere … they’re going to keep getting better. But, no matter what, [they] need to keep building upfront from the inside out along both lines. You can never have enough offensive linemen or defensive linemen. Ever.”

“You have to protect him. They have to keep the eye on the prize, even if there’s a flashy receiver or a good-looking cornerback, keep building that line from the inside out … Don’t worry about getting booed at your draft party for taking an offensive lineman. Keep adding those guys. Now Burrow’s staying upright and it opens your offense up for more deeper routes,” the evaluator added. 


Ravens GM Eric DeCosta discussed the biggest challenge facing Baltimore this offseason. The Ravens don’t have a ton of cap space, and while they have a good number of picks, most come in rounds where it’s unrealistic to expect Day 1 contributors. What that means is DeCosta has to assess young players on the roster — including G Ben Cleveland, OL Tyre Phillips, C Trystan Colon-Castillo, DB Brandon Stephens, DT Broderick Washington and OLB Daelin Hayes, to name a few — and whether they are ready for increased roles. 

“As we’re building a team, one of the worst things that we can do is make a move, bring a guy in, and then the guy behind him emerges quickly, and then all of a sudden, we have two guys for one spot. That’s a frustrating thing when that happens, and it’s happened over the years,” DeCosta said via the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. “What we try to do, one of the biggest jobs we have is assessing our players — what do we have currently? — evaluating the players we have on campus. What are they going to be? Where are they going to go? How fast are they going to get there?”

“In some cases, we make the determination we don’t have the right guy yet, and we have to find that guy to do that,” DeCosta continued. “Hopefully, if that’s the case, the guy we bring in is good and can play right away and he’s everything we think he’s going to be. But sometimes, the guys have to percolate for a while and then they become really good. The challenge is really, as we go through the season, for me to assess and to be around the guys enough to know their personalities, to talk to the coaches, to get a sense for their strengths and weaknesses, so that after the season, we can make a clear determination as to what their value is going to be moving forward.”


  • The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly‘s favorite candidates for the Steelers’ general manager job are Pro Personnel Coordinator Brandon Hunt and Packers’ Co-Director of Player Personnel John Wojciechowski.
  • Kaboly does not think there will be any issues between assistant Brian Flores and S Minkah Fitzpatrick following the defensive back’s time in Miami with Flores. 
  • When asked if Fitzpatrick becomes a trade candidate, Kaboly responded that he could see the safety landing a multi-year extension this offseason. 
  • When taking a look at potential cap casualties, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes that ILB Joe Schobert carries a figure of $9.7 million. 
  • Kaboly also thinks FB Derek Watt are OT Zach Banner potential cuts, while DL Stephon Tuitt could retire. 

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