Steelers Opponents: AFC North Roster Developments

Jun 12, 2012; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) throws a ball during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone the AFC North. After an onslaught of injury news during the preseason and training camp, things are a good deal calmer.

This is the first post of a weekly series on news around the North. I thought it might provide some perspective to have a quick run-down of significant injuries during the offseason, especially for the beleaguered Browns and the reeling Ravens.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns chose to shore up their offense in the first round in 2012. They did this not by drafting a top-two quarterback, as a trade offer to move up two slots for either Griffin or Luck went awry. Instead they moved up to No. 3 to draft one of the most promising RBs to come on the scene recently, Trent Richardson. (That's Richardson in the picture. He definitely would have made Momma's Mock Draft® if there had been any chance of him being available...) It seemed like a great idea to shore up the running attack, which had inexplicably struggled last season with Peyton Hillis in the No. 1 slot. Unfortunately for the Browns, Richardson underwent his second knee surgery of this year on August 9th. He is out for the preseason, although head coach Pat Shurmer is projecting his return for the opening game of the regular season.

In May their 2011 first round draft pick, DT Phil Taylor, tore a pectoral muscle and is expected to be out for a substantial chunk of 2012. Their best CB by far, 2010 first-round pick Joe Haden, is likely to be suspended for four games for violating the league's PED policy.

The Browns had already discovered they would lose starting OLB Scott Fujita for four games, due to his role in the Saint's bounty program, and then on August 4th their other starting OLB, Chris Gocong, tore his Achilles and will almost certainly be out for the season.

The Browns also changed ownership this season, as they were bought by Steelers (presumably now former) part owner Jimmy Haslam III. Haslam claims to be committed to keeping the Browns in Cleveland. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the new owner has on the team, since he is unlikely to be able to suit up at OLB.

Baltimore Ravens:

The biggest news of the off-season, and arguably the worst news the Ravens could have gotten, was OLB Terrell Suggs' Achilles tear. Suggs has declared he will be back in 2012, but later admitted he wasn't a doctor. It's within the realm of the possible, naturally, but seems highly unlikely Suggs will return for 2012.

In June OT Jah Reid was carted off the practice field with a strained calf. He was in camp practicing, but was scratched for the second preseason game vs. the Lions last week, which is not promising.

Early in training camp TE Dennis Pitta broke his right hand, putting him out for the preseason. He is deactivated at the moment, as is the other starting TE, Ed Dickson. Dickson sprained his shoulder during the first preseason game. As Dickson and especially Pitta are security blankets for QB Joe Flacco, this is a blow, especially combined with No. 1 WR Torrey Smith spraining his ankle. However, both Dickson and Smith are expected to be ready for the season opener, although Pitta almost certainly will not.

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals have been relatively healthy during the offseason, other than defensive backs, with mainly minor injuries to significant players. One of the Bengals' first-round draft picks, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, sustained a knee injury during a workout in July, after missing most of the off-season activities with a hamstring injury. DBs Brandon Ghee and Shaun Prater are most likely out for the season, and Jason Allen and Pacman Jones have been fighting various minor injuries.

NFL.com apparently hasn't noticed WR Jerome Simpson is now a Viking, because his suspension is showing up in the Bengals' listing. DL Carlos Dunlap injured his knee in the preseason opener vs. the Jets and isn't expected back until after Game 1.


Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers breezed into training camp healthier than they had been for some time, but for those who were looking closely there was a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. OLB Jason Worild's hand, that is. Of course, there were others on the PUP list, but no one unexpected, except for, gulp, James Harrison. Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton were said to be making excellent progress, and no one was counting on them to begin the season anyhow. Fortunately, as we thought in those long-gone days of innocence in late July, Harrison had a minor knee issue and Worilds, his back-up, would return any day.

Well, it's now on the downhill side of August. Harrison just had a knee procedure, and Worilds doesn't look any closer to being back on the field, other than as extra weight on the sled. And running back, a position which appeared, despite Mendenhall's absence, to be very deep, suddenly appears dangerously thin after injuries to Isaac Redman and John Clay. And although Jonathan Dwyer is playing, he too sustained an injury in the Steelers/Eagles game, a sprained shoulder.

Other minor injuries cropped up as usual; the only other ongoing injury was P Jeremy Kapinos, who is dealing with back problems. CB Keenan Lewis sprained his shoulder in practice on July 30th, but with Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown breathing down his neck he isn't going to sit on the bench if he can help it. Finally, the Steelers signed OT Max Starks, although he was immediately put on the PUP list, because his ACL tear, sustained in the Wildcard Game vs. the Broncos, appeared to be well on its way to health.

So back to that "quiet week"—let's see where everyone is at as of August 21st. Injuries are always with us, of course, but we're also getting to the point in the preseason when the NFL Transactions page is going to get more interesting.

Browns:

While Trent Richardson is still listed as "questionable" on the NFL injury report for the start of the season, recent reports indicate he is progressing well, possibly even ahead of schedule. Chris Gocong is listed as "doubtful," and everything else I've seen suggests he is out for the season. In the first play of the first pre-season game vs. Mohamed Massaquoi sustained what Pat Shurmer described as a concussion in the first game, and which Massaquoi described on Twitter as "not a concussion." Whichever it was, Massaquoi did not play last week vs. Green Bay, and is listed as questionable for the August 24th game vs. Philadelphia. It appears there are no new injuries, though, so maybe the Browns are getting a bit of a break from bad news.

The Browns IR'd a FB/RB, Eddie Williams, on Friday, and cut a kicker, Jeff Wolfert, on Saturday.

The Ravens didn't fare quite as well. Vonta Leach sprained his ankle in the game vs. the Lions, as did WR LaQuan Williams. The other injuries appear more minor, and things seem to be looking up. Ed Dickson is now only "questionable" for Jacksonville, although he is also considered questionable for the start of the season. Torrey Smith seems to be coming on very quickly, and is a probable for the start of the season. He may even play in tomorrow night's game.

The Ravens had no transactions listed for the past week.

Bengals:

CB Dre Kirkpatrick was activated from the PUP list last week and was able to practice in a very limited fashion. He is still experiencing pain in the knee, but is expected to play in the final preseason game. CBs Allen and Jones are still out for Thursday's game vs. Green Bay. LB Rey Maualuga sprained his knee in last week's game vs. the Falcons, as did TE Jermaine Gresham. Both sprains are considered less severe than the one Carlos Dunlap sustained the previous week, and Maualuga claims he will play in the Packers game.

WR Jordan Shipley was cut from the roster at the end of last week, as he still had not sufficiently recovered from a double-whammy ACL/MCL injury during the Week 2 (2011) game against the Broncos. He was claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay on Monday. They also cut K Thomas Weber on Friday, and on Saturday they signed a DE to kick the tires on, Luke Black.

Steelers:

Prior to the game vs. the Colts Stevenson Sylvester tore his MCL and is expected to be out for three to four weeks. This is not good news for an already-depleted LB corps. However, James Harrison believes he will be ready to start the regular season. Mike Tomlin was quoted as saying "I'm optimistic. But just because I'm optimistic doesn't mean he'll be ready." Gotta love Tomlin.

P Jeremy Kapinos continued to have problems with his back and finally had surgery two weeks ago. He was at the facility kicking some trial punts yesterday, and hopes to be ready for the final preseason game. Casey Hampton, Max Starks, and Rashard Mendenhall were all activated from the PUP list. Hampton believes he will be ready to play in the opener, and according to Jim Wexell he expects to split time with Steve McLendon. He admits he isn't yet in the shape to do that, however.

Starks' activation appeared to be in response to issues with Mike Adams. Adams struggled in the first preseason game, giving up two and a half sacks before he sprained his knee. He did play limited snaps in the second game vs. the Colts, wearing a knee brace, and it didn't appear to have improved his footwork, even against the second-string Colts rushers, so the Steelers are hoping Starks will be ready to start the season at LT. He did practice yesterday, so there is good reason to think he will be ready to play in Denver. RB Isaac Redman is unlikely to play again in the preseason after sustaining a groin/hip injury in the preseason opener, but is expected to start in Game 1 of the regular season.

The Steelers signed RB/FB Jason Ford last week, and waived/injured RB John Clay. Jason Ford tweaked a hamstring in Sunday's game and did not practice yesterday. Finally, Mike Wallace is expected to sign his tender sometime later this week and practice next week.

That's the AFC North Roster News for this week. Expect a great deal more activity on the transactions end of things as the deadline for trimming the roster to 80 players is next Tuesday, and the final cuts have to be in by August 31st.

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