AFC Notes: Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Browns

Not only did the Browns snap a 20-year playoff drought, but they went further than most expected and got their first playoff win since 1994 this year. But the Chiefs were too much to handle for Cleveland and the Browns came up five points short in the divisional round Sunday. 

“It sucks, to be quite honest with you guys,” Browns QB Baker Mayfield said via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “It sucks because so many people have sacrificed so much during this process and this very strange season and overcame adversity. So many people have stepped up — families of players and families of staff — and everybody sacrificed so much for us to be able to do this. It is just unfortunate for us to come up short.”

Still, 2020 represented a big step forward for Mayfield and the Browns, as he proved enough to the organization for it to be committed to him going forward. Now the attention turns to building even more on the success the team had this year. 

“Obviously, each year there is turnover inside the locker room, which is unfortunate because we had an extremely special group here,” Mayfield said. “I told some of the guys that know for sure going to be back that we’ll be back. As I have said and restated throughout as the season has gone on, there is a new standard here and that is to be expected.

“This is going to leave a bad taste in our guys’ mouth for extra motivation through the offseason, but yeah, we have come a long way since I first got here. We are not done yet, and that is the best part. Obviously, it hurts to have to wait until next September to have to play, but it is what it is.”

Browns HC Kevin Stefanski isn’t as worried about whether or not he’ll win coach of the year, though his work has him seriously in the running. But he’s proud of the identity the Browns built in his first year. 

“I am proud of our guys for battling all season long,” Stefanski said via Cleveland.com’s Scott Patsko. “I am proud of the guys for putting up with the coaches and us moving the schedule on them constantly. I am proud of how resilient they were in that regard and how resilient they were in different ball games. I am proud of how they fought yesterday. I think we established our identity this season on offense, defense and special teams. We accomplished some of our goals — ultimately, not all of our goals — but I definitely can look back and tell you that I am proud of the effort of our players, our coaches and our staff.”

Ravens

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta called waiving RB Mark Ingram on Tuesday a “tough business decision” and appreciated his time in Baltimore. 

We are making the tough business decision to terminate Mark Ingram’s contract. Mark is a talented winner who brought passion, toughness, leadership and chemistry to the Ravens. He contributed in so many meaningful ways on and off the field, and we wish him the very best as he continues his career,” said DeCosta, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN

Ravens’ impending free-agent OLB Matt Judon mentioned that he is not sure about his future in Baltimore. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future – that’s all out in front of me. But the past five years, man, it’s been a hell of a ride,” Judon said, via Ryan Mink of the team’s official site.I wouldn’t ask for another organization, or coaches, or mentors, or players to play with, man. Some of these guys [that] I’ve played with, they’re my real brothers. [They’re my] real-life brothers. So, with that being said, I love the Ravens and the organization. I would just like to thank them.” 

Judon praised Baltimore’s ability to build rosters through the draft and free-agent, while adding that the Ravens’ front office must evaluate whether he is worth bringing back. 

Man, the Ravens do a great job, as an organization, of getting players in here,” Judon said. “They do a great job of drafting and free agency and picking players up. So, as an organization, they’re going to have to step back, look at the roster, look [at] how they want to go with the roster.”

Judon called Baltimore his “home” and reiterated that he is hopeful to re-sign with the Ravens. 

“But as me personally, I have no clue. I don’t really know. I’m not in those meetings. I’m not the higher-ups. If they want me here, like I said, this is home. This has been home since I got in the NFL, but if not, I enjoyed my five years.”

Ravens’ veteran WR Willie Snead, who is another impending free agent, said he is grateful for his three years with the organization but is also unsure of his future. 

“I just want to say one thing: I really appreciate this organization for the chance they gave me after New Orleans. It’s been an incredible three years,” Snead said. “I don’t know what my future is going to look like after tonight, but I’m very hopeful and thankful for everything Baltimore has given me. [There’s] a great group of people here; great coaches, great players, staff, support staff. You guys have been awesome. The media has been ‘A-1.’ We endured a lot this year, but I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team. I love these guys in this locker room, and these last three years have been an incredible journey.”

Steelers

  • The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette is pessimistic about the Steeler’s chances of contending for a Super Bowl in 2021 given they will likely experience significant losses to a roster that, while winning 12 games, was exposed late in the year after an 11-0 start. 
  • Bouchette doesn’t necessarily expect Pittsburgh to do this, but he thinks they should just completely rip the band-aid off in 2021, including moving on from veterans like QB Ben Roethlisberger, C Maurkice Pouncey, CB Joe Haden, TE Eric Ebron, LB Vince Williams, TE Vance McDonald and FB Derek Watt, whether it’s by retirement or release. 
  • That would thrust young, unproven players like QB Mason Rudolph, C J.C. Hassenauer, CB Justin Layne and LB Robert Spillane into more prominent starting roles. Bouchette adds the Steelers could evaluate them in 2021 and see if they’re a part of the future in 2022. 
  • It would also give the Steeler an additional $52 million in cap space to work with, which could get them $30 million or more over 2021’s projected lower cap figure. 
  • NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reports the Steelers interviewed Lions OL coach Hank Fraley for their offensive line coaching job on Thursday. 
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