AFC North mailbag: Steelers, Ravens

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's focus our attention and provide some answers on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens this week.

Anthony from Mamaroneck, N.Y., wants to know if Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons will remain in sub packages this year now that he's a full-time starter.

James Walker: Good question, Anthony. Without seeing the Steelers in a game-type scenario for 2009, my inclination is Timmons will remain a fixture in sub packages for obvious passing downs. He has done it almost exclusively for a full year so there is no reason to change just because he is a first-year starter. Timmons' athleticism should make him a three-down linebacker in Pittsburgh moving forward.

John Wesson from Hartford, Conn., asks what are the chances of Bill Cowher returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an executive role when he's finished with broadcasting.

James Walker: Not good, John. I would say almost zero. For starters, Cowher eventually wants to return to coaching. That's what he does best. Cowher probably will have enough leverage where he has say in personnel decisions, as well, but that will be determined by which franchise he goes to. Plus, there is a train of thought in NFL circles that Cowher would prefer to rebuild a franchise from the ground up to cement his legacy. Cowher's credentials likely are already good enough for the Hall of Fame. But perhaps the only knock is he went to the league's most stable franchise and won just one Super Bowl in 15 seasons. If Cowher is able to start his own program from scratch and win another Super Bowl coaching another team, he would have nothing left to prove.

SGT Monahan currently in Afghanistan is curious whether the Baltimore Ravens have a chance to talk receiver Derrick Mason out of his recent retirement.

James Walker: SGT Monahan, thank you again for your service and taking the time overseas to read the AFC North blog. I think there is a chance the Ravens can talk Mason out of retirement, but it's difficult to measure the degree. According to Mason's recent comments, he is 99 percent sure of his decision. Yet, when you talk to the Ravens they don't seem as convinced. Baltimore is expected to meet with Mason, possibly as early as this week, so everyone will have an answer sooner rather than later. But Baltimore already began searching for outside candidates in the event Mason stays retired.

Raven Rhino from Richmond, Va., writes: With Mason's playing possibilities up in the air, does it make sense for Baltimore to go for a younger receiver like Matt Jones for a one-year contract instead of Marvin Harrison?

James Walker: Not necessarily. Production is more important than age in this particular situation. As you mentioned, Raven Rhino, the Ravens are not going to negotiate a four-year deal with Matt Jones, Marvin Harrison or any other receiver off the scrap heap in July. So the age of the receiver is not vital in a one-year scenario. So if Harrison can be the most productive receiver for Baltimore in 2009, he should be the target. By the way, the team expects to work out D.J. Hackett and Drew Bennett on Friday.