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AFC North mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's dig into the mailbag.

Jake Mathis from Logan, UT writes: What will Paul Kruger's role be this upcoming season and in the future for the Ravens?

James Walker: The Ravens really like Kruger's potential. He has good size, a good motor and some pretty good moves to the quarterback for a rookie. Kruger's role has been expanded this offseason because of Terrell Suggs' absence, so Kruger has got a fair amount of reps with the first-team defense. But once "Sizzle" returns for training camp Kruger will likely have to earn playing time more so in a backup role at defensive end and perhaps a little "rush" linebacker.


Bob Benson from Austin, TX writes: Now that Max Starks has signed a new deal and opened up some cap room, who is the top UFA for the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign? My vote is TE Health Miller.

James Walker: Based on some reporting mixed in with an educated guess, Miller and/or safety Ryan Clark could be next to get new deals. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post Monday, Bob. Miller is probably the most important 2010 free agent, but he will not be the most affordable. That could make it a little tougher to get him signed long-term. Clark is a very good player who could be more on the affordable side to fit under this year's salary cap.


Tino from Pittsburgh, Pa. feels the Pittsburgh Steelers don't get "any respect" and "no one thinks they will repeat and barely make the playoffs."

James Walker: I'm not sure what sports material you're reading, Tino, but you may want to reconsider your sources for information. The Steelers were the No. 1 team in ESPN.com's offseason power rankings, so they get plenty of respect on this site. Pittsburgh also is thought of highly locally in Pittsburgh and in most national sites that I've seen.


Drake from Verona, KY writes: Do you believe Chad Ochocinco's word when he says that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to the Playoffs for the upcoming season?

James Walker: I believe that Ochocinco believes in what he's saying. Sometimes it's hard to separate him talking for entertainment sake versus him being serious. In this case, I think he legitimately feels the Bengals are going to the playoffs. A lot of players in Cincinnati's locker room feel the same way, but probably wouldn't say it in public to the media. I've written many times that the Bengals have sleeper potential this year but it's way too early to start making playoff predictions.


Marcus from Woodstock, GA wants an update on the progress of Cleveland Browns second-year receiver Paul Hubbard.

James Walker: Surprisingly Hubbard has generated a little buzz from Browns fans who read this blog. Unfortunately, Marcus, Hubbard is going to have a very tough road if he wants to make the team. The fact Cleveland drafted two rookies at the position is an indication that head coach Eric Mangini wants his own players to mold at the position. Hubbard was a draft pick of the last regime and hasn't shown much this offseason. Unless he really makes a run in the preseason, there is just not much room left at receiver on the roster. He's young enough to be a candidate for the practice squad.