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State of AFC North: Steelers hiding truths, Ravens resting starters, RGIII inconsistent in Browns debut

Are the Steelers hiding the truth behind Ladarius Green’s injury? The Ravens rested many starters during the first preseason game. And the Robert Griffin has a mixed debut as a member of the Cleveland Browns. But, he is at least owning his mistakes.

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Each AFC North teams has played its first preseason game of the season. Robert Griffin III had a mixed debut. Quite a few of the Ravens starters missed the preseason opener. Meanwhile, the Steelers refute the reports of Ladarius Green’s headaches holding him out of practice. Let’s get to the AFC North headlines heading into the second week of the preseason.

Baltimore Ravens

Michael Phelps calls out Steelers in Rio

Michael Phelps has had quite the return to the Olympics. Phelps gained his 23rd gold medal in Rio this year breaking a long standing record, but he didn’t shy away from taking a shot at his favorite football team’s biggest rival, the Steelers.

During a press conference one of the reporters was wearing Steelers gear. He lamented at the reporter’s choice of apparel before complimenting the rivalry as a whole. “I mean I always think we’re going to beat Pittsburgh,” Phelps told reporters. “We always play each other really hard... the games are really exciting.”

It's safe to say Michael Phelps isn't a fan of the Steelers.

A video posted by espn (@espn) on

Clearly Phelps has strong ties to Baltimore, his home town. The Ravens reciprocated that by stopping their preseason game to display Phelps’ race on the big screen.

Ravens rest early

In the preseason, it is more about staying healthy than winning games. The Ravens have several players still on the Physically Unable to Perform list including Steve Smith Sr., Elvis Dumervil, and Breshad Perriman. None of them participated in the first preseason game. The Ravens also held out Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett as well as Terrell Suggs, who came off the PUP list on Monday.

The Ravens know what they are getting from most of these players, Perriman is the obvious exception, so it isn’t as necessary to rush any of them back. Several fringe veteran looking to make the team gained valuable opportunities due to these players sitting out.

Running back is one position where several players are fighting for the opportunity to backup Forsett. Terrance West scored two touchdowns, Javorius Allen had a 19-yard touchdown reception, and rookie Kenneth Dixon had 44 yards rushing. All three made quite the opening statements for their position as the backup, and the decision will likely take most of the preseason to decide on at this rate.

Cleveland Browns

Injury update for Cleveland

The Browns are dealing with a few injuries to key players. Rookie Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon are closer to being healthy and playing in preseason action, but Hue Jackson refused to speculate on their statuses for Thursday’s game. Joe Thomas was held out of practice Sunday after flaring up his back. Joe Haden has returned to practice, but Jackson doesn’t expect Haden to participate in Thursday’s game.

Clearly the Browns are in no rush to risk potential injury for a preseason game. It would be interesting to see if any of these players would be playing if it were a regular season game. Still aside from Coleman, there is little reason to rush Haden or Thomas back. Gordon still has to serve a four game suspension, so while he needs to knock off a little rust after missing last season, he’ll still be sitting to start the year.

Mixed bag for Robert Griffin III debut

Robert Griffin III made his highly anticipated debut as a member of the Cleveland Browns, and it was a roller coaster of emotions for The Dawg Pound. It started off great with a 49 yard toss to Terrelle Pryor. Then after a few propelling drives, Griffin had a miscommunication with Gary Barnidge, which led to an interception.

Griffin led one more drive that didn’t lead to anything, but Griffin’s true progression was shown in his post game comments.

"That's on me," he told ESPN. "I'm the quarterback. I have to make sure we are not hurting ourselves with penalties or turnovers."

Griffin was criticized in Washington for taking too much of the credit and none of the blame, so taking the blame, even if it wasn’t his fault, is a nice step in the right direction.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers struggle in first game of preseason

The Steelers also rested key offensive players in their preseason opener including Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. But their offense wasn’t the issue as the starting defense struggled to slow down the Lions offense, especially on third down. But the Steelers ended the only drive against Mathew Stafford with James Harrison performing a strip sack ending the drive. It comes as no surprise that the Steelers are still struggling against the pass after doing little to immediately improve the group on defense this offseason.

On offense Sammie Coates had a key fumble in a two-minute drill situation before the half. Coates is one of the contenders to take on Martavis Bryant’s targets next season. Darrius Heyward-Bey also had a 29 yard touchdown reception.

Tomlin refutes Ladarius Green headache report

An unnamed source came out with a story saying headaches have been keeping Green out of practice, and on the PUP list, and not his recovery from an offseason ankle surgery.

That would make Green’s situation a little bit more troubling. Physical injuries to the bodies like tears, sprains and breaks are usually black and white in recovery, but injuries with the head and brain are more complicated and are often more wait and see. They are also much more scary.

Mike Tomlin refutes these claims though. "He's on PUP because of his ankle. We stated that," Tomlin said per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's rehabbing nice. He's gotten better in that area, but he's not ready to go. I'm not going to respond to reports from unnamed sources."

Whether it’s his ankle surgery recovery or recurring headaches, we’ll probably find out by how soon he returns to the field, and whether he leaves it again. It also seems weird for this story to pop-up out of nowhere if there isn’t some truth to it. But since it is an unnamed report it can’t be fully trusted without more proof.