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Around the AFC North: It's 'Championship Or Bust' Mode in Cleveland

Browns QB Baker Mayfield

Cleveland Browns: It's 'Championship Or Bust' Mode

Remember two years ago when the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield were the sexy Super Bowl pick and they ended up going 6-10? Well, the buzz has returned, and this time, it seems more warranted.

ESPN's Mike Clay crafted seven reasons why the Browns are Super Bowl threats in 2021, and it starts with them having one of the most talented rosters in the league.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield made positive strides last season, and he still has a bounty of weapons around him at wide receiver, running back and tight end, not to mention one of the top offensive lines blocking for him. The Browns' defense was their Achilles heel last season, but Clay writes that it's the "most improved unit in the NFL."

"Of the team's top 10 players in terms of defensive snaps played last season, only two remain on the 2021 roster: stars Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward," Clay wrote. "Often times, this sort of development is bad news, but Cleveland upgraded at nearly every position."

The Browns' biggest moves in free agency were inking former Rams standouts John Johnson III and Troy Hill at safety and cornerback. Plus, they used their top draft pick on cornerback Greg Newsome II. The Browns added Jadeveon Clowney opposite Garrett and will be better on the defensive line. They have high hopes for second-round linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a Swiss-Army knife to slow down Lamar Jackson.

The Browns also have the advantage of playing a lighter schedule than their AFC North peers because they finished in third place in the division last year.

"This is no longer just a potential playoff contender," Clay wrote. "If the Browns are anything less than legitimate threats to Kansas City for the AFC crown, the season will be a letdown."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris Expects to Be 'Utilized Everywhere'

There are those that question whether there's enough value to draft a running back in the first round. Well, the Steelers figure they have a running back and wide receiver in top pick Najee Harris.

Harris showed off his pass-catching ability during this weekend's rookie minicamp with a one-handed grab over his head. Over his final two seasons at Alabama, he caught 70 passes for 729 yards and 11 touchdowns, so he's a dual-purpose weapon.

"I'm going to be utilized everywhere," Harris said. "So they want me to know multiple positions."

Harris was befuddled that his one-handed grab was considered newsworthy by Steelers reporters.

"I always do that," Harris said, via the Tribune’s Joe Rutter. "Not to brag or anything. It wasn't luck, I can tell you that. Since you all were watching, I can do it again. It's not something I work on. It's something I've been doing since middle school."

Head Coach Mike Tomlin spoke highly of the first-round pick, who rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.

"I think he is as highly conditioned as anybody out there, and that's a great place to begin," Tomlin told reporters Saturday. "I think he's got a nice foundation from that perspective. He's a sharp guy, he's a football guy. You can tell he passionate about football. He can articulate the game very well, so there's a lot to be excited about."

Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase (aka "Uno") Steals the Show

The Bengals' No. 5-overall pick, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, already drew attention for his choice of jersey No. 1 – the same he wore in college that earned him the nickname "Uno." He's the first Bengals player to ever wear that jersey, per USA Today's Chris Roling.

Over the weekend, Chase stole the spotlight at Bengals rookie minicamp, too.

Chase said he liked how wide the NFL field felt, and the Bengals were already working him into some slot duty to maximize the top talent's versatility.

Per Roling, rookie minicamp also gave a preview of the Bengals’ possible remade starting offensive line. Jonah Williams is expected to be at left tackle, Quinton Spain and Xavier Su'a-Filo will compete at left guard, rookie Trey Hill will compete with veteran Trey Hopkins, rookie second-round pick Jackson Carman will be at right guard, and veteran free-agent addition Riley Reiff will shift to right tackle.

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