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Around the AFC North: Key Questions As Training Camps Begin

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett participates in an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Who Will Replace Big Ben As Next Starting Quarterback?

Ben Roethlisberger won't be the Steelers' starting quarterback this season, but who will be?

Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and rookie Kenny Pickett will compete to replace Roethlisberger, a future Hall of Famer who retired after 18 seasons. Most pundits believe Tribusky has the edge heading into training camp, with the Steelers preferring not to rush Pickett into the starting job.

"Trubisky appears to have a significant advantage over Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, and barring an upset, he'll likely be the starting quarterback in Week 1," Brooke Pryor of wrote.

Pittsburgh is certain to make offensive changes with Roethlisberger no longer at the helm. The Steelers scored more than half their points last season in the fourth quarter, when they often went no-huddle and Roethlisberger adlibbed. But their offensive consistency was lacking. During the later stages of his career, Roethlisberger relied heavily on short and intermediate passes and averaged just 9.6 yards per completion in 2021 after averaging a career-low 9.5 yards per completion in 2020.

The Steelers believe they can generate more big plays through the air, and they already have a bell cow running back in Najee Harris who will be the focal point of their running attack. Pittsburgh is unlikely to show a lot of new wrinkles during the preseason. But in the regular season, Rudolph expects Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada to feature plenty of Harris, and plenty of play-action passes.

"I think we didn't run a lot of play-action passes last year," Rudolph said via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Go back and look – there wasn't a lot of play-action.

"Matt's got some good schemes, things we didn't run last year, some new concepts I'm excited about. We're trying to kind of put last year in the rearview in a lot of ways."

Cleveland Browns: How Will QB Reps Be Divided While Word on Watson Looms?

Cleveland began this week still waiting for disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson to rule on a possible suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Jacoby Brissett is the No. 2 quarterback and is expected to start if Watson is unavailable. However, the Browns signed former first-round pick Josh Rosen Friday to compete with Joshua Dobbs for the No. 3 quarterback role in camp.

The Browns have four quarterbacks who didn't play with them last year entering camp, and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski must figure out the best way to divide practice reps. Watson didn't play at all last season for the Houston Texans, and if Watson is given a lengthy suspension, the Browns will rely heavily on Brissett to play well in Watson's absence.

Watson reported to camp and worked out on Saturday with the Browns' three other quarterbacks.

Cincinnati Bengals: Will Revamped Offensive Line Improve Protection for Joe Burrow?

Despite reaching the Super Bowl last season, the Bengals entered the offseason determined to improve the pass protection for Joe Burrow. He was sacked an NFL high 70 times last year – 51 times during the regular season and 19 during the postseason.

Cincinnati signed three new offensive linemen this offseason – right guard Alex Cappa, center Ted Karras and right tackle La'el Collins. However, the Bengals announced Saturday that neither Cappa nor Collins will be on the field when camp begins. Cappa was one of five players placed on the PUP list, while Collins has been placed on the Non-Football Injury List.

The Bengals will hope Cappa and Collins can join them on the field quickly. Establishing chemistry and learning to work cohesively as a unit will be a focal point for the offensive line during camp.

"The mindset is to block for however long it takes," Collins said via Elise Jesse of "We don't play to a play clock down here. There's a man in front of you and you have to shut him down. That's my mindset and that's the mindset of the unit. We've got to give Joe and every ball carrier the time that they need to do what they need to do. No matter how long that is, we've got to keep playing until the whistle blows."

The linemen know that if Burrow has time to throw, he will make plays.

"When you put the tape on you'll see him making a lot of throws that he's making with guys in his face, the pocket's not clean and he's still completing his passes," Collins said. "It's exciting, I can't wait. A guy like that is going to get the ball out, just give him time."

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