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Around the AFC North: Bengals Offensive Line Takes Another Hit With Alex Cappa Injury

Cincinnati Bengals guard Alex Cappa (65) is helped off the field after being injured in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Cappa's Injury Presents Another Challenge for Offensive Line

The Bengals are expecting to lose another starting offensive lineman as they prepare for Sunday's playoff game against the Ravens.

Starting right guard Alex Cappa didn't return after suffering a left ankle injury in the third quarter of Cincinnati's Week 18 victory over Baltimore. Head Coach Zac Taylor didn't offer an update following the game, but Cappa's teammates sounded like the injury was serious.

"It was heartbreaking," left guard Cordell Volson said via "He's been so influential in my life here in my short time being around. To see that happen, it's tough. We all know Cap is going to come back better than ever. It definitely hurts. We just wish him the best."

Right tackle La'el Collins (knee) went out for the season in December, so the Bengals will likely open the playoffs down two starters on the right side. Hakeem Adeniji has replaced Collins, while Max Scharping is expected to replace Cappa.

Losing Cappa and Collins could impact Cincinnati's running attack, as well as the pass protection for quarterback Joe Burrow, who was sacked twice in Week 18 and escaped pressure numerous times. However, Burrow said he had faith that Scharping would step up.

"I don't know the severity of the injury, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind him," Burrow said via the Bengals’ website. "Max has played a lot of football, and he knows his stuff. He's going to have to step up but we have all the faith in the world in him."

Cleveland Browns: Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods Has Been Fired

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski issued a statement Monday after the Browns fired defensive coordinator Joe Woods following their season-ending loss to Pittsburgh.

Woods had been on the job for three seasons, and the Browns (7-10) struggled against the run (25th overall) this season despite finishing 14th in overall defense. They lost a two-score lead to the Jets in the final two minutes of Week 2, part of a costly four-game losing streak that put them in a 2-6 hole that they never recovered from.

The Browns have asked for permission to speak with Patriots Inside Linebackers Coach Jerod Mayo, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett's Progress Gives Steelers Reason for Optimism

The Steelers (9-8) missed the playoffs with the Dolphins' win over the Jets, but won seven of their last nine games after a 2-6 start.

Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett led game-winning drives against the Raiders and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively, and his swagger has the Steelers believing they have found their next franchise quarterback. Pickett didn't put him big numbers (seven touchdowns, nine interceptions. 76.7 passer rating), but he played his best in big moments.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin has now gone 16 years without a losing season, and Pickett showed the winning traits that Tomlin can work with.

"We did not grade this group on a curve. We didn't grade Kenny Pickett on a curve," Tomlin said via Jimmy Watkins of "We don't function like that. Football is our game, our business is winning, and our intentions are to handle business.

"We've been in some big games, we're doing business with these guys because of their ability to rise up in those moments."

Pickett said he looked forward to attacking the offseason and coming back a better player in 2023.

"I felt like the offense started to become my own the more I was playing in it," Pickett said. "(I was) taking real ownership of it instead of just kind of playing catch-up when I got thrown in there a little bit earlier (this season) and I was just worried about executing the plays. Now I felt like I had everything at my disposal when I was coming to the line of scrimmage. I felt like I made a good jump in the learning curve, and I want to make that leap into Year 2."

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