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Around the AFC North: Steelers WR George Pickens Eyes Pro Bowl in Year 2

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) warms up on the field before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) warms up on the field before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Pittsburgh Steelers: George Pickens Wants to Rectify Being 'Snubbed' for Pro Bowl

George Pickens has lofty goals entering his second season. 

The Steelers' acrobatic wide receiver is coming off a solid rookie campaign in which he ranked fourth among all first-year players in receptions (52) and receiving yards (801). However, Pickens wasn't satisfied and has set two goals for 2023 – making the Pro Bowl and winning a Super Bowl. 

"I feel like I got snubbed," Pickens said via Bo Marchionte of "Cause there wasn't a lot of guys in there at the Pro Bowl that excited me. Then the Super Bowl. The two bowls. A lot of RAC, run after catch. Two bowls for sure." 

ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky believes Pickens could have a breakout year that helps the Steelers reach the postseason. 

"George Pickens has got a chance to be a legit game-changer at wide receiver," Orlovsky said on “NFL Live.” "A scheme-changer that when defenses watch the tape they go, 'What are we going to do with him?' If George Pickens can consistently play to the level that we saw glimpses of last year, we're going to talk about a guy that's going to go for like 100 catches, 1,400 yards and push 10 touchdowns. I think he's that talented. If he becomes that, the Steelers will no longer be quiet in November, December." 

Cleveland Browns: New Coordinator Jim Schwartz Putting His Stamp on Defense

New Browns Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz won a Super Bowl with the Eagles five years ago and has brought a confident swagger to Cleveland's OTAs. Schwartz wants more impact plays from a defense that finished 21st in interceptions (11), 22nd in forced fumbles (11) and 27th in sacks (34) in 2022.

"We need to be coached up," Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward said via Jake Trotter of ESPN. "It's good criticism. Guys got to be out here knowing what they're supposed to do and doing our job, and he's making sure that he's holding us to that standard." 

The Browns have a solid cornerback duo in Ward and former first-round pick Greg Newsome II. Schwartz envisions the Browns relying more heavily on man-to-man coverage and sending at least five pass rushers in obvious passing situations, led by edge rushers Myles Garrett and freshly-signed Za'Darius Smith.  

At OTAs, Schwartz is setting the tone for how he expects Cleveland's defense to play.

"We want to be physical, and we want to have a little personality," Schwartz said. "All the good defenses have those things. Those are the things that we're going to emphasize as we go."

Cincinnati Bengals: Chase Brown Wants to Add Homerun Threat to Ground Attack

Fifth-round pick Chase Brown had a monster season at Illinois in 2022 with 1,643 rushing yards while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He's competing to be the No. 2 running back behind Joe Mixon, and the Bengals hope Brown's ability to make big plays adds a different dimension to their running attack.

Brown's 83 forced miss tackles were second in the nation according to Pro Football Focus, and the Bengals have seen flashes of his 4.4 speed at OTAs. 

"Let's see how the season goes, but right now I'm Chase Brown," Brown said via Geoff Hobson of "That's who I'm trying to be on game day. Be myself. Fast. Versatile. Elusive. Somebody who has speed and agility with speed to separate from people. An all-around running back who can pass block, can catch, and run the ball efficiently and is trusted on all three downs."

Samaje Perine was the Bengals' No. 2 running back last season, but he signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason. Perine ran for 394 yards and was a significant part of the passing game, catching 38 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns.

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