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Around the AFC North: Steelers' Victory Comes With Injuries to Three Starters

Steelers RB James Conner
Steelers RB James Conner

Pittsburgh Steelers: Victory Took a Toll on Offense

The Steelers opened the season by winning on Monday Night Football, but their offense suffered some key losses. Running back James Conner left with an ankle injury, starting right tackle Zach Banner was carted off with a knee injury and starting right guard Stefan Wisniewski suffered a pectoral injury. Wisniewski was replacing the injured David DeCastro, who may return Sunday to face the Denver Broncos.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin is expected to update the status of the injured players at a Tuesday press conference. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Pittsburgh does not expect Conner to be sidelined for a lengthy period.

The Steelers got a huge lift from running back Benny Snell Jr., who rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries after Conner left the game in the second quarter of a 26-16 victory over the New York Giants. Snell looked ready to be the Steelers' lead back, at least until Conner returns.

"I wasn't surprised by what he was able to do," Tomlin said via Sports Illustrated. "He's a quality player and one that's maturing and emerging and was ready to answer the bell when called upon."

Third-year tackle Chuks Okorafor and rookie guard Kevin Dotson stepped in for Banner and Wisniewski. Pittsburgh's revamped offensive line will be under pressure to protect Ben Roethlisberger, who made his return to action Monday in his first game action since elbow surgery. Roethlisberger threw for 229 yards and three touchdown passes, an encouraging performance for Pittsburgh's offense moving forward.

"I'm excited we won the game, I'll tell you that," Roethlisberger told ESPN after the game. "It's not about me individually, the reason I came back is for these guys and this team."

Cleveland Browns: Tight End David Njoku Placed on IR

Tight end David Njoku, one of the lone bright spots for the Browns in their season-opening loss to the Ravens, has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. He will be required to miss at least three weeks, but Njoku posted on Instagram that he expects to return before too long.

Njoku had three catches for 50 yards against the Ravens, including a 1-yard touchdown reception and a 28-yard catch that was one of Cleveland's best offensive plays. After the Browns signed tight end Austin Hooper during the offseason, Njoku asked to be traded before changing his mind prior to training camp. Njoku only played 23 percent of the Browns' snaps Sunday, but he was more effective than Hooper, who had two catches for 15 yards.

The Browns will need Hooper and their entire offense to play better when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. In another roster move, the Browns promoted kicker Cody Parkey from the practice squad and waived Austin Seibert, who missed an extra point and a 41-yard field goal against the Ravens on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow's Resiliency Already Impresses Teammates

Top-overall pick Joe Burrow is still looking for his first touchdown pass and his first victory. However, he nearly rallied the Bengals in their 16-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Burrow had some bright moments, like his 23-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw that displayed his mobility.

Even after Burrow threw an interception with the Bengals trailing in the fourth quarter, he bounced back strong. He led Cincinnati on a potential game-winning drive in the closing minutes, completing eight of 11 passes on the drive for 70 yards.

Burrow threw what could have been a game-winning touchdown pass to A.J. Green, but the play was nullified when Green was called for pass interference with seven seconds left. Bengals kicker Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard field goal with seven seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime, but the way Burrow led his team down the field for a potential win was impressive.

"That guy doesn't flinch," Green said after the game. "The way he handled himself in that last drive was unbelievable. I haven't seen any rookie the way he handled it after adversity. We got a special one in Joe."

Burrow graded his performance with a "D" after completing 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards. He will get his next chance for his first NFL victory Thursday night in Cleveland.

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