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Around the AFC North: Decision on Deshaun Watson Moving Closer

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson answers a question at the NFL football team’s practice facility Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson answers a question at the NFL football team’s practice facility Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns: Arbitrator Expected to Begin Deshaun Watson Hearing on Tuesday

A ruling on Deshaun Watson's status for the 2022 season (and potentially beyond) could be made before training camp.

Watson's hearing before disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson is scheduled to begin Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

The league will reportedly push Robinson to rule for a "lengthy" suspension for the Browns' quarterback, one which could potentially sideline him for the entire 2022 season. Some reports have said the league could hand down an indefinite suspension, lasting at least a year. Watson has been accused of harassing, assaulting, or touching multiple women during massage sessions while with the Houston Texans, but he has repeatedly denied the allegations. Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association will have the right to appeal the decision made by Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the players association to be the arbitrator.

Robinson is expected to rule on Watson before Browns veterans report to training camp in late July. Watson has participated in Cleveland's offseason workouts, but he has not played since the 2020 season and his uncertain status has lingered over the franchise. Cleveland traded three first-round picks, a future third-round pick, and two fourth-round picks to Houston in exchange for Watson, then signed him to a five-year contract worth a reported $230 million guaranteed.

Baker Mayfield is still on Cleveland's roster, but the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft requested a trade after the Browns pursued Watson, and Mayfield did not participate in their offseason activities. Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs are also on the Browns' roster, and Brissett is expected to be Cleveland's starter in 2022 for as long as Watson is unavailable.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin Says Najee Harris Will Carry Heavy Load

As a rookie, Steelers running back Najee Harris had more rushing attempts (307) than any back in the NFL except Jonathan Taylor (322) of the Colts. Don't expect Harris' workload to decrease in 2022. After Ben Roethlisberger's retirement, Pittsburgh will rely heavily on Harris for production and leadership according to Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

"That dude is a bell cow. He's gonna have to be a bell cow for us," Tomlin said on “The Pivot” podcast. "If this train is going anywhere in 2022, he's going to be a major component of it, and he's capable. I ain't even talking about from a talent standpoint. We know that. I'm talking about he's capable from an intangibles standpoint. Bringing the best out in his teammates. Wearing the responsibility that comes with leading."

The Steelers drafted quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round, but veteran Mitch Trubisky took the first-team snaps during offseason practices and Mason Rudolph is also competing for the job.

Whoever succeeds Roethlisberger as the starter will be replacing a future Hall of Famer. Tomlin concedes the Steelers can't expect their next quarterback to have a career as legendary as Big Ben. But Tomlin has never had a losing season in 15 years as Pittsburgh's head coach, and he won't concede that the Steelers won't be contenders in the AFC.

"Yeah, we might not have the type of quarterback play that we've had, we might not have the special talent that we've had, but we got capable dudes," Tomlin said. "And we've got a team.

"The standard is the standard. It's like McDonald's. You know what a No. 1 is. It don't matter where you go, what corner of the globe, a No. 1 is a No. 1, and that's what I want Pittsburgh Steelers football to be. So, it doesn't matter who puts their hands underneath the center as far as I'm concerned."

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon Declares Bengals Will Be Hot Stuff

Teams that lose in the Super Bowl usually don't make it back the following season. Only eight teams in league history have returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing it, and only three of those teams won the big game.

However, Bengals running back Joe Mixon is bullish on his team's chances in 2022. He's part of their abundance of offensive firepower that includes quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Mixon says the Bengals have swag, and he's not afraid to say so.

"I feel like we might be the hottest thing smokin in the NFL on Sunday's," Mixon said via FOX 19 in Cincinnati. "With the talent we got and who we added onto this year, I feel like we're bound to have a hell of a season. The best thing about it is we've been there before and we know how to get there. Just gotta stick to the basics, one week at a time and that's what's gonna happen."

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