AFC Notes: Joe Burrow, Dustin Hopkins, Mason Rudolph, Bengals, Browns, Steelers


Bengals QB Joe Burrow doesn’t make all the personnel decisions in Cincinnati. But as the most important player for the franchise in a long, long time, he absolutely has a lot of influence. 

“His input level is high,” Bengals HC Zac Taylor said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “I think it’s critical when you have players you trust because of how they operate, how they see things and how they go through it. That input is critical. Joe’s up there at the top in terms of an opinion that I want in about every area that we have. I don’t take it lightly when he says something or when he doesn’t have an opinion on something. I think that that communication is critical.”

So when Burrow says he expects WR Tee Higgins to be back with the team in 2024, it’s noteworthy. Burrow added a few caveats but he said enough to indicate retaining the pending free agent receiver is a high priority for the Bengals. 

“I can’t speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself,” Burrow said. “I expect him to be back. I know everybody in the locker room wants him back. We’ll see. The offseason is a crazy thing.”

“We all want Tee back,” Burrow added. “We know what kind of player he is. We know what kind of person he is. He’s what being a Bengal is all about. Like you said, we’ll see, but I think we should have a good opportunity.”



  • The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly expects Steelers QB Kenny Pickett to get every benefit of the doubt as a former first-round pick and thinks he’s the favorite to open the 2024 season as the starter. He adds Pittsburgh’s new offensive coordinator hire will likely have to be on board with Pickett. 
  • Kaboly doesn’t rule out the Steelers bringing back QB Mason Rudolph as a backstop to Pickett but points out Rudolph could want a clearer opportunity elsewhere. 
  • If Rudolph leaves, Kaboly notes the Steelers will need a new backup but he’s doubtful they bring in a player who will be much of a threat to Pickett. 
  • As far as the new hire at OC, Kaboly expects Steelers owner Art Rooney II to have a major voice in who that will be. 
  • The Steelers will probably pick up RB Najee Harris‘ fifth-year option this offseason, per Kaboly.
  • Steelers HC Mike Tomlin is optimistic that S Minkah Fitzpatrick will play in the playoffs despite being limited. (Mark Kaboly)
  • Tomlin added that S Damontae Kazee is still being evaluated from a conditioning standpoint. (Ray Fittipaldo)
  • Per Jonathan Jones, Rudolph will start in the playoffs against the Bills as Tomlin wants to continue riding the hot hand.
  • The team may also consider moving Patrick Peterson back to cornerback from safety after recently being unable to do so due to injury. (Brooke Pryor)
  • The Steelers signed OL Tyler Beach to a futures deal, via Aaron Wilson. 

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