Good Morning, AFC North!

Good Morning, AFC North!
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The Andy Dalton dilemma should be easy

Consider Dalton’s performances when combining playoff games, prime time games and games played against the Steelers and Ravens. Cincinnati is 5-12 in those games (place all of it at Dalton if you want… or not) and his overall passer rating is 64.2. In every other game (not under the lights, against the Steelers or Ravens, or in the postseason), the Bengals are 25-9 and Dalton’s passer rating is 94.9.

Each year Cincinnati has improved their win totals. On Sunday afternoon, [the Bengals will most likely win]. So would it really be a stretch to acknowledge that you want Dalton as your regular season quarterback?

Put the spotlight on him to perform. If he’s up to the challenge, throw in the extra millions and sign him. If he collapses, then you only confirm that he’s incapable of performing under pressure.

Coaching has played a part in some of Dalton’s poor performances in the playoffs. With new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, focussing on the run more, Dalton may face less pressure and perform more consistently.





Brian Hoyer is healthy and ready for competition

Hoyer, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills, expects to be ready to participate in the team’s offseason program starting April 7. Hoyer still has to pass a medical before he’s officially allowed back on the field, but he doesn’t expect that to be an obstacle.

“I knew we had a minicamp before the draft and I really wanted to push myself to be able to participate as much as I could,” Hoyer told 92.3 The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter. “With the new staff and GM, [I wanted] to show these guys that I’ll be ready to go. It brings out the best in me, the competition, proving people wrong, proving people right,” Hoyer said. “I’ll never shy away from any competition.”

Hoyer has a great attitude heading into the new season. Not showing interest in any of the free agent QBs so far this offseason, the Browns appear content to head into the draft with Hoyer and Alex Tanney as their QBs. Either they have confidence in Hoyer, or they believe they can find solid competition in the draft.





Pierce said Saturday that he will be ready to hit the field “definitely by training camp” after January surgery on his right shoulder. He said he got a bit heavy after the operation, but has dropped most of the extra weight and making his way back to full speed.

“I think I’m right on schedule, honestly,” Pierce said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “I’m getting better, man. I’m doing rehab every day. I’m just grinding it out.”

Pierce not only needs to be ready to start the season to help run a more balanced offense, but he may be promoted to starting RB, if only for a few games, depending on how the league handles Rice’s aggravated assault charge. Hopefully Pierce can study Kubiak’s new system while he rehabilitates.





5 Unheralded Pittsburgh Steelers Who Must Step Up in 2014

Marcus Gilbert

Cameron Heyward – Heyward had a breakout year in 2013. His five sacks were a tie for the team lead with LaMarr Woodley. He deflected seven passes, which is obviously great for a defensive lineman. He needs to continue to be consistent to help this team be the team from the second half of 2013.

William Gay – With the loss of Ryan Clark and an overall aging secondary, a 29-year-old William Gay is a spring chicken for the Steelers. He is going to need to really step up this season for a team that has plenty of questions

Lawrence Timmons

Markus Wheaton – The Steelers lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Denver Broncos. Jerricho Cotchery will now be catching touchdown passes from Cam Newton. They currently have Antonio Brown as a legit receiver on this team.

Timmons has already stepped up over the last few seasons, and has shown he can play consistently well inside. Whoever is playing next to him will have to “step up.” William Gay and Markus Wheaton are the two players who have the most work to do. Both the secondary and receiving core lack proven depth. Both players will have every opportunity to earn significant roles. (Apologies for the slideshow. Most articles were about the Pirates with a tenuous link to the Steelers.)



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