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Around the AFC North: Steelers Have Big Plans, Largely Because They Still Have Big Ben


Steelers: Tomlin has no issue with Roethlisberger's style of leadership

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made plenty of big changes this offseason, but Ben Roethlisberger remains their starting quarterback.

That's a very good thing, according to Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Two former Steelers stars, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, questioned Roethlisberger's leadership recently, with Bell saying, Roethlisberger “wants to win his own way, and that’s tough to play with.”

Tomlin doesn't buy that. He has won plenty of games, including a Super Bowl, with Roethlisberger as his quarterback.

Tomlin plans to do more winning with Roethlisberger. The Steelers led the AFC North most of last season before losing four of their last six games to miss the playoffs. Getting back into the postseason is Tomlin's focus, not worrying about the opinions of players he no longer coaches. He made that clear during comments at the NFL Annual League Meetings in Phoenix.

"I have no problem with his play or his leadership," Tomlin told a roundtable of reporters, speaking about Roethlisberger. "I've heard some of the scuttlebutt you've mentioned. I have no reaction to former Steelers and things of that nature. We were a 9-6-1 football team last year. We all need to look in the mirror in terms of what we do and how we do it, starting with me. That's the approach that I'm taking and the approach I'll ask him to take, not in response to any criticism from the outside. Just doing what's appropriate in terms of us being as good as we need to be."

The Steelers still view themselves as Super Bowl contenders and Roethlisberger's presence is a major reason why. Tomlin seemed to relish the notion of Roethlisberger entering next season with a chip on his shoulder. 

"You know him," Tomlin said. "You don't do what he's done, at the level that he's done it, for the time in which he's done it, without responding to challenges and adversity. That's just in his DNA."

Browns: Kitchens wants to build winning culture with Beckham's help

The Cleveland Browns will enter next season with high expectations, which have grown since they acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade with the New York Giants.

However, the Giants only had one winning season during Beckham's five years there. First-year Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens isn't trying to build a program where Beckham has terrific stats, but the Browns don't win. Kitchens wants Beckham to have more team success than he enjoyed in New York, and that message was conveyed to reporters during the league meetings.

"He's been a great player for a long time - has not been on very good teams," Kitchens said. "Just because you're a great player doesn't mean your team's going to be great. What we've got to do is immerse him in the plan, as a player, as a person, and we've got to start building a team.

"Cleveland probably has never had a guy traded [to the franchise] of that magnitude. All that's good and fun and exciting for the fans. But ultimately the product we put on the field is going to determine how we are. You are what your record is, that's what coach [Bill] Parcells used to say. We want our record to be good."

Kitchens and Beckham have apparently begun to bond, even before their first practice together. Asked what he would say to Beckham when they met, Kitchens said, "Umm, I love you? Like show me how to catch the ball with one hand?"

To which Beckham had a positive response on Twitter.

Bengals: Owner tells why he cast lone vote against pass interference replay review

NFL owners voted 31-1 to allow offensive and defensive pass interference to be reviewable by replay. The lone dissenting vote was by Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown. To his credit, Brown was willing to tell reporters at the league meetings why he voted against the change.

"I just vote with my conscience and how I see it," Brown said. "I'm not trying to be offensive. I understand if somebody else doesn't want to go my way.

"The reason why we are against it is that it interrupts the game. It changes the character of the game in my mind. I think it's in some ways kind of odd to see people all sitting there waiting for somebody in New York to tell them it is or it isn't. I’d rather just play the game.”

The league will implement the pass interference replay change for the 2019 season, then reassess after the season. Despite coaches and many fans being pleased by the vote, Brown isn't convinced the increase of using replay to determine calls is a positive trend.

"When they put it in, they were smart enough to restrict it more than it is today," Brown said. "Well, it has evolved over time and now they use it in all kinds of situations. I don't think that's good for the game."

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