The AFC North was the first division eliminated from the playoffs this season after the Ravens lost in their Wild Card game against the Chargers. Despite that, it’s been far from quiet since then. The Browns have a new head coach who has brought a very sharp change in culture with him, while the Steelers circus is picking up steam as the team focuses on helping out Mike Tomlin.
Ravens in talks with linebacker C.J. Mosley
Mosley, arguably the Ravens most important defender, is set to become a free agent this offseason. Mosely was a first round pick in 2014, and he has been one of the cornerstones for the defense ever since.
The deal makes sense for both sides as Baltimore is clearly a better defense with Mosley out there, and the difference when he is not is evident. Mosley has also never been a guy to want change.
“I’ve never been a guy that’s liked change or gone to a new place and start over,” Mosley told Michael DiRocco and Jenna Laine of ESPN last year when he was getting prepared for the Pro Bowl. “I went all four years at Bama. I was at one high school. I was at one middle school. So I’ll love to stay in Baltimore and continue my legacy and try to be the second-best linebacker to finish out there.”
It looks like it is very likely that the Ravens will be able to retain their most important free agent this offseason.
Freddie Kitchens sets the tone for the new Browns
The Browns went under a complete change in the middle of this season when they parted ways with Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. They made Gregg Williams the interim head coach, but Kitchens stole the show when he helped transform a struggling unit into a productive offense, and it didn’t hurt that he had quarterback Baker Mayfield looking like he was back at Oklahoma.
One of the big things people noticed about the Browns after this change was their cocky attitude — aka their “it is us against the world” mentality. It was something we haven’t seen from the Browns in awhile, and it appeared to start with Mayfield at quarterback. Of course, this attitude will rub plenty of people the wrong way, especially when you come out on the losing side after facing them. However, it is very apparent that it helped shift the Browns from a bottom feeder to a team to watch in 2019. Now the Browns have a guy with a similar attitude at head coach in Kitchens.
“The only thing I changed, as a coach, was that it enabled me to be able to speak to the whole group, offensively. In the first team meeting, what we talked about was nothing to do with football,” Kitchens told reporters on what changed when he became offensive coordinator. “I asked them to trust me that I would always ask them to do what is best for them. They believed me. We were not calling any different plays, we were calling the same plays. I mean, a couple of gimmicks and stuff like that that you need, but the base of our offense was the same. You had to ask them to trust you. When you ask someone to trust you, if you ever disappoint them, you are not going to get the trust back – or not to the extent that it was. Once they trust you, they play a little harder, they make a little more effort to know what they are doing and it kind of just fell into place.”
You can tell by the way Mayfield and other Browns players treated Hue Jackson following him being fired by the team that he wasn’t exactly the players’ favorite. He has been well documented in throwing players under the bus when things aren’t going right, which is something you can very plainly see Kitchens won’t be repeating by the way he is treating this opportunity. It is very obvious that a culture change is happening in Cleveland. One that many other NFL teams likely won’t enjoy, but it is something we will have to watch for a few seasons at the very least.
Steelers want to provide help with managing challenges and clock management
This is something Bengals fans are all too familiar suffering from. Over the past few seasons it would be a miracle if Cincinnati had three timeout at the end of either half. They’d be even luckier to have any at all in some crucial situations. Clearly, Pittsburgh is suffering from a similar problem with Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin hasn’t won a challenge in two seasons, and he only won three in 2015. It has clearly become an issue as he ranks near the bottom of NFL coaches over that three-year span. His clock management also hasn’t been the greatest over that same timeframe. This is becoming a more common move though. Lewis even mentioned it was something Hue Jackson would help with when they brought him aboard after Lewis took over the defensive coordinator duties.
Head coaches have plenty on their plates, this is a simple truth. Asking them to be constantly analyzing those situations can be unnecessarily difficult. Considering how important some challenges and time management are to games, it is honestly surprising that more teams don’t have a dedicated coach or manager to handle that.
Antonio Brown calls out former coaches and players; promises exclusive interview
While Cleveland seems to be finding themselves, Pittsburgh has begun to take its place as the franchise with a tase for chaos. Brown has had a hand in essentially everything that’s put the Steelers in a bad light. He left a practice before their Week 17 playoff-deciding matchup with the Bengals, he left the stadium early during the game and he requested a trade not long afterwards. The Steelers dealt with enough drama with Le’Veon Bell during the season, Brown’s tirade has not made anything better.
Art Rooney II has even come out and said that Brown hasn’t returned his calls, and he doubts that Brown will be on the team to start next season, despite no trade talks having occurred yet.
Brown was also put on blast by former teammate Emmanuel Sanders and former coach Bruce Arians. Arians mentioned that he wouldn’t want to bring in Brown because of his personality calling him a diva, and the receiver responded on twitter.
He didn’t draft me he drafted @ESanders_10 same guy who missed rehab to go on networks to talk about me on situation he have zero clue! Arians now wears kangoo hats n glasses but ima diva! Done seen it all then they say we friends stop lien https://t.co/jALXyhQMAw— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 16, 2019
Sanders had called out the way Brown went about handling his business leading up to Week 17 and soon there after, which you can see here. Sanders wasn’t going to take the jab sitting down though.
@AB84 you know damn well I didn’t travel to LA to talk about you fam. You trippin yo. I went to be a analyst in which you acting foolish was the topic and I gave my analytical opinion. Get off the gas yo. You did it to yourself— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) January 16, 2019
Really no one should be surprised by the lack of loyalty or maturity from Steelers players and coaches. I mean after all this was the scene at Bell’s locker after it was official that he wouldn’t be playing in 2018.
Steelers players went into Le’Veon Bell’s locker, removing his nameplate and rummaging through items. Bud Dupree says thanks for the Jordan brand cleats. pic.twitter.com/gQaAu9hUPd— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 14, 2018
Brown has also teased an exclusive interview coming soon. It looks like this could be getting a whole lot worse for the Steelers before it gets any better, and Bengals fans should have their popcorn ready, or get some re-fills if they’ve already ran out.