Around the AFC North: Maybe Antonio Brown Isn't Leaving the Steelers After All

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Steelers: Antonio Brown-Steelers Dispute Remains Hot Topic

A divorce between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers may still happen, but a chance for reconciliation remains.

The Steelers are considering trade options for their star wide receiver, but they have not given Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, permission to seek a trade, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Meanwhile, several of Brown's teammates at the Pro Bowl expressed their desire to see him return, like center Maurkice Pouncey, defensive end Cam Hayward, and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Things don't sound as grim between Brown and the Steelers as they did earlier this month, when team president Art Rooney II said it was "hard to envision" Brown returning in time for training camp. Rooney softened his stance last week in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, saying that he was willing to sit down with Brown before deciding on his future.

Brown was benched for the Steelers' season finale after a week of turmoil in which he failed to show up for Saturday meetings and had a midweek practice disagreement with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Nevertheless, Brown remains one of the NFL's best players, with plenty of productive seasons left at age 30. With star running back Le'Veon Bell already likely to leave Pittsburgh after his season-long holdout, it's going to be an interesting offseason for the Steelers.

Browns: Standout Rookie Class Sets Table for Possible Long Run of Success

It's hard to draft a stronger rookie class than the Browns did in 2018, getting their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, a Pro Bowl cornerback in Denzel Ward, and a starting running back in Nick Chubb who almost ran for 1,000 yards (994). The class ranks among the three best in team history, being compared to Cleveland's 1964 draft that produced two Hall of Famers, wide receiver Paul Warfield and running back Leroy Kelly, and the 1978 draft that produced another Hall of Famer, former Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

The Ravens also had a superb draft in 2018, led by new franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson, starting right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and two tight-end targets for Jackson, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. But the Browns (7-8-1) finished 5-3 over their final eight games and believe they can challenge for the top spot in the AFC North not just next season, but for years to come.

This all may be a signal that the Browns are beyond their longtime troubles both in the front office and with the product on the field, as detailed at length in an ESPN feature story by Seth Wickersham.

Bengals: Former Ravens Assistant Jack Del Rio Could Become Defensive Coordinator

Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor is expected to officially become the Bengals' next head coach after the Super Bowl on Sunday. That would still leave the Bengals' defensive coordinator spot unfilled, but a leading candidate on Taylor's list is reportedly former Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

Del Rio spent three seasons as the Ravens linebackers coach (1999-2001) before moving on to the Panthers (defensive coordinator), Jaguars (head coach), Broncos (defensive coordinator) and Raiders (head coach). His main task in Cincinnati would be to fix a unit that finished last in the NFL in total defense, surrendering 413.6 yards per game. The Bengals know they will have a difficult time becoming a playoff team again 2019 unless their defense takes a step forward.

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