Let's see what's in our AFC North mailbag this week.
Rawleigh Brown from Birmingham, Ala., writes: With Ike Taylor seeking market value and both Carlos Rogers and Richard Marshall coming off of a so-so year, is it conceivable that my Steelers would take the money Taylor is asking for and put it toward possibly getting both Rogers and Marshall?
James Walker: It's not happening, Rawleigh. Neither corner you mentioned is coming dirt cheap. Both will get starter money. It's just that Taylor has been more consistent and has a better resume. So he will be the more expensive free agent. Also, the Steelers aren't the only team looking for a corner. They will be bidding against numerous teams once free agency opens. Pittsburgh should be happy if it lands one of these players this summer.
RJ from Altoona, Pa., writes: What do you think it will take for Heath Miller to start getting some of the respect he deserves?
Walker: Miller, like his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is one of those players who probably won't ever get his just due, RJ. Offensive players in general are overshadowed in Pittsburgh because of its tremendous defense. Miller also is asked to be a complete tight end, which includes a lot of run blocking and sometimes pass protection. Most of the top tight ends primarily catch passes and put up huge numbers. Miller is not a numbers guy, which means you really have to watch him play every week to appreciate all he brings to the table.
Nello Colecchi from Newport, R.I., writes: Why was Cleveland so quick to cut ties with Rob Ryan? He appeared to be on the right track, and ESPN has him ranked #2 in up-and-coming coaches.
Walker: Ryan is a good coach, Nello. But with rookie head coach Pat Shurmur taking over, it was no longer a good fit. Ryan is a 3-4 coach and Eric Mangini's guy. The Browns wanted to completely start over, and that includes putting together a coaching staff Shurmur is comfortable with. Mike Holmgren's teams always ran a 4-3 defense. Holmgren tried letting Mangini do things his way on offense and defense and it didn't work out.
Sean McMahon from Pittsburgh wants to know which second-year player for the Cincinnati Bengals will have a big year.
Walker: There are some good choices in Cincinnati, Sean. I would say defensive end Carlos Dunlap has a solid chance to follow up his strong second half last season. Tight end Jermaine Gresham and receiver Jordan Shipley could be factors, as well. But I'm not sure about Cincinnati's passing game without veteran Carson Palmer and with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton taking over.
Chris Lee from Cincinnati writes: If the lockout ended soon, what free-agent quarterbacks would you think Mike Brown might pursue?
Walker: Don't get your hopes up too high, Chris. The Bengals probably won't bring in a big name and appear ready to go with Dalton as the starter. Unless the Bengals go against their lengthy history of pursuing cheaper free agents, expect veteran backups like Bruce Gradkowski or Jim Sorgi to be on their list. Those aren't exciting names, but they are realistic targets for the Bengals.
Matt from Tucson, Ariz., wants to know how much blame does Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deserve for quarterback Joe Flacco's struggles.
Walker: That's a fair question, Matt. One thing that I quickly learned about the NFL is quarterbacks will usually receive too much credit or too much blame. The Flacco bashing this offseason took on a life of its own and took lot of attention away from Cameron's struggles last year. Cameron is a good coach, but he needs to find better ways to make all the pieces fit and use Flacco's strengths.
Alex from Severna Park, Md., wants to know what Chris McAlister's chances are for the Hall of Fame.
Walker: The chances aren't good, Alex. McAlister was a good corner for 10 years in Baltimore but was never the best of his era. McAlister's stats (26 career interceptions) don't stand out when compared with others within the same time frame such as Champ Bailey (48 INTs) and Ty Law (53 INTs). The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to induct the greatest players in NFL history. Simply being good isn't good enough.
Comment and complaint department
Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md., writes: James, I think the whole "Troy Reed" debate is finally over. The people who PLAY AGAINST the two week in and week out just voted Ed Reed over Troy Polamalu. I feel as though the players are the best ones to judge who is the better safety and look who came out on top. The one who has more interceptions, more passes deflected and more touchdowns. DEBATE OVER!
Walker: As much as we try to put a bow on this, Brandon, the "Troy Reed" debate will probably continue for a long time. Fearless prediction: About a decade from now, when both safeties are going to the Hall of Fame, we will still debate who was the better player in the AFC North blog.
Jason from Pasadena, Md., writes: Hey JW! I can't figure out why on earth the first game of the season between the Ravens and Steelers is at 1pm. That seems like a game that's meant for primetime in my opinion.
Walker: I agree the NFL dropped the ball on this one. Every game between these two teams has been extremely close and physical in recent years, which is what makes this the best rivalry going in my opinion. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it will be a great, entertaining game with both teams looking to get off to a fast start.
Rocco from Pittsburgh writes: Hey James, I know you've been to a lot of games, but I couldn't disagree with you more about the Ravens having the best tailgates in the AFC North. Obviously, the homer side of me says the Steelers are the best - we show up as early as the parking lots allow us and believe me, we drink, cook and party with the best of them.
Walker: We revisited this debate on Friday and opened it up to our community. Now you can decide. I am not an expert on tailgating but was shocked by the amount of responses we received about this.
Andrew from Henrico, Va., writes: I wanted to comment about the NFL top 100 in relation to ESPN's top 10 players. When reading the ESPN article is was noted that you were the most generous to defensive players. With the players voting for NFL.com's top 100, five of their top 10 were defensive players. Do you think this will cause some people to think more about the defensive side of the ball, or just forget about it once the season starts again?
Walker: I was surprised how much defense was ignored in our Power Rankings. I suspected quarterbacks would dominate the top 10. But I thought players like DeMarcus Ware, Darrelle Revis and Patrick Willis would get more consideration. But everyone values different things. Personally, I'm a bit fatigued of doing and talking about rankings all offseason. I'm ready to write about football games again.
There were no major haters or homers this week. Good job, everyone.