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Around the AFC North: Bengals 'Not Surprised' They Reached Super Bowl

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow talks to the media as he left the field after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL AFC Championship football game, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo.

Cincinnati Bengals: Reaction to Reaching Super Bowl LVI

The Bengals have reached the Super Bowl and they are thrilled, but not surprised.

It was difficult to find any pundits picking Cincinnati to win the AFC when the season began, or even when the playoffs started. But after overcoming an 18-point deficit Sunday to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bengals are AFC champs and entitled to celebrate.

Reaching the Super Bowl continues an incredible three-year run for quarterback Joe Burrow, who will make history if the Bengals capture their first Lombardi Trophy.

The Bengals are already the darlings of Cincinnati for reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years. Burrow was the No. 1 pick in the draft two years ago with the Bengals coming off a 2-14 season. Until this year, they hadn't won a playoff game since 1990. Last season, they finished 4-11-1 and lost Burrow to a season-ending knee injury.

Now the Bengals are in the Super Bowl. Even Burrow didn't see the turnaround happening this quickly.

"I think if you would have told me coming into the league when I got drafted that we'd be here this year, obviously it would be a shock," Burrow said via Ben Baby of "But like I said earlier, no, I'm not surprised."

Overcoming a 21-3 deficit in Kansas City made Cincinnati's victory even more impressive. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs looked ready to make their third straight Super Bowl appearance. Chiefs fans were rocking Arrowhead Stadium and the Bengals seemed to be in serious trouble. But they never panicked, the mark of a championship team. They held the Chiefs out of the end zone at the end of the first half and to just three points in the second half and pulled off a shocker.

"When our back's against the wall, that's when we fight the best," said safety Vonn Bell, whose interception set up the game-winning drive. "Guys bowed up. Made big-time stops, big-time plays. [We] have a resilient group and we really showed that."

Reaching the Super Bowl was especially meaningful for Bengals who have been around longer than Burrow, like defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had eight tackles Sunday. Hubbard had never experienced a winning season since being drafted in 2018. But he sensed things would change when Burrow was drafted, and he was right.

"I've been pretty miserable, along with a lot of my teammates, the last few years, losing so many games," Hubbard said. "I told Joe, 'We need you. You're the guy to turn this around. I know it.' You can't even write stories like this. It's amazing."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Wide Search Planned for Next General Manager

Steelers Owner Art Rooney II won't rule out hiring someone from outside the organization to become the team's next general manager. Kevin Colbert will be stepping down after this year's draft.

"(We) probably won't make a hire until after the draft," Rooney said via Brooke Pryor of "We will be interviewing people. We've already interviewed two of our in-house candidates: Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.

"We're certainly not afraid to bring somebody in from the outside if need be. When we hired Coach (Mike) Tomlin, we had some good internal candidates in that round and wound up hiring somebody from the outside. We just don't try to get too much of a narrow focus and really try to get the best person for the job wherever they're coming from."

Tomlin signed a three-year contract extension in 2020, and Rooney said Tomlin's role regarding input in personnel decisions would not change when the new general manager is hired.

"I don't expect to make dramatic changes in terms of those responsibilities, coach versus GM," Rooney said. "I think it's worked well, and we're not really trying to make a big change there."

Cleveland Browns: Losing Adofo-Mensah to Vikings Brings Browns Two Compensatory Picks

The Browns lost front office executive Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to the Minnesota Vikings last week, who hired him as their general manager. As a result, the Browns will receive a third-round compensatory pick in each of the next two drafts as part of the NFL's guidelines on equal employment and workplace diversity.

That will give the Browns four picks in the first three rounds, including the 13th-pick overall this year. They're one spot ahead of the Ravens.

Several mock drafts are projecting the Browns to take a wide receiver in the first round, like ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who has Cleveland taking Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson.

Getting more big plays through the air is a priority for the Browns, but General Manager Andrew Berry said Head Coach Kevin Stefanski will remain the team's play-caller next year.

"We really do have to through everything because we didn't meet our level of expectations this year," Berry said via "That all being said, feel good about Kevin as a play caller. I feel like that is one of his strengths."

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