AFC North mailbag: Browns and Steelers

Let's see what's in our mailbag from the Dawgpound and Steeler Nation.

Brad from Corpus Christi, Texas, wants to know if the Cleveland Browns would be willing to trade down with teams interested in Auburn quarterback Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.

James Walker: It's definitely a possibility, Brad. There is something curious about president Mike Holmgren's sudden interest in Newton, and I believe it's to get a feel for a quarterback teams may want to trade up for. Newton and Gabbert could be considered value picks if either drops out of the top five.

Matt from Ohio writes: Do you think if the Browns have a great draft, they might be able to contend for a playoff spot this upcoming season?

Walker: I still think the talent gap is pretty wide, Matt. I've said this before, but the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are at least two years away from contending for the playoffs. Cleveland will be a team in transition this upcoming season. The players have to learn a new offense and a new defense under a rookie head coach. Unless the Browns catch lightning in a bottle and get really hot, I don't see them overcoming both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. But Cleveland needs to focus on having another solid draft to make the team more competitive. Perhaps the Browns can give the big boys a run for their money in 2012.

Bob K. from Portsmouth, Ohio, writes: Do you feel Browns quarterback Colt McCoy will suffer the same fate as Derek Anderson, or do you think McCoy will have a better second season under the microscope?

Walker: Bob, there are a lot of differences between McCoy and Anderson. For starters, they are very different quarterbacks physically and mentally. They really couldn't be any different in those departments. Second, Anderson had a great Pro Bowl year in 2007. McCoy played decent for eight games. That does not make a great season. The jury is still very much out on McCoy. But the situations are not similar.

Amr Hosni from Hazleton, Pa., writes: I was wondering about Jason Worilds and Limas Sweed. What do you think their future with the Steelers looks like?

Walker: Worilds is fine, Amr. He's only entering his second season and has to wait his turn like most Steelers defenders. Worilds did a decent job on special teams and recorded a pair of sacks in limited playing time last season. Sweed's situation is more uncertain. He's entering his fourth season and young receivers like Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have earned roles in the offense. It will be a tough numbers game for Sweed this year.

Andrew from Buffalo Grove, Ill., writes: Do you think the Steelers will go after ANY free agents, especially a cornerback?

Walker: The Steelers usually make a non-descript signing or two in free agency. But don't expect any big names like Nnamdi Asomugha. Pittsburgh has to worry about its own free-agent cornerback in Ike Taylor. To retain Taylor or let him go will be one of the biggest decisions the Steelers make this offseason.