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AFC North: Steelers Sign K Hartley, More

In this week's AFC North Roundup, the Pittsburgh Steelers are forced to make a change at kicker, the Cincinnati Bengals have a growing center snapping problem and the Baltimore Ravens plan to honor their franchise's top-10 players this year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a significant loss in Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game against the Minnesota Vikings, with kicker Shaun Suisham tearing his ACL and meniscus while running downfield to make a tackle during the second-half kickoff. Suisham has been the Steelers’ kicker since 2010, making 124 of his 141 field goal attempts, and all 173 of his extra point attempts. He’s also one of the few kickers to have considerable success at Heinz Field, the Steelers’ home stadium, which is open on one end and is known for difficult kicking conditions.

The Steelers hosted free agent veteran kickers Jay Feely, Alex Henery and Garrett Hartley on Tuesday, and the team announced their decision later in the day—Hartley will be Suisham’s replacement, at least for now. Hartley, entering his eighth year in the NFL, spent six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, making 82 of his 101 field goal attempts and 176 of his 177 extra point attempts. He played two games for the Cleveland Browns last year after the team moved on from kicker Billy Cundiff. He converted all three of his field goal attempts and both of his extra point attempts for the Browns.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette reported on Wednesday that the Steelers believe the 11-year old FieldTurf at the Hall of Fame’s Benson Stadium for Suisham’s injury. Indeed, a number of both Steelers and Vikings players were slipping and losing footing on the turf in the game. The Steelers are also frustrated that the Hall of Fame waited until after Sunday night’s game to replace the aging turf. 

Steelers safety Robert Golden, who sat out this year’s game with a knee injury, said, “I hated that turf. It was old, chewed up, very hard. I’m just happy most of our guys got off healthy. Now they’re redoing it? I don’t agree with that, that’s bad, putting us at risk like that on that turf.” Fullback Will Johnson, who did play on Sunday, wasn’t pleased with the turf either, saying, “I actually watched the play [when Suisham was hurt] and it looked like it happened before contact. It was an unfortunate situation, and I think a lot of it has to do with the turf itself. I had a couple of plays there, especially in the middle of the field, where I was sliding. I saw a lot of guys losing their footing.”

But whatever the reason, the Steelers will have to face their 2015 season without the reliable Suisham and hope that Hartley—or someone else—can come in and do the job well.

Cincinnati Bengals: Frustration Rises with Bad Snaps

The Cincinnati Bengals offense has been plagued by a rash of bad snaps between center Russell Bodine and quarterback Andy Dalton. On Tuesday, during the team’s joint practice with the New York Giants, at least two snaps were botched, frustrating Dalton, who shouted at Bodine, “We can't have that! The snap is the first thing we got to put away,” reported ESPN’s Coley Harvey.

And Dalton isn’t the only one frustrated. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has taken note of the problem and said, “It unsettles an offensive unit. If you don't think you can get the snap, that's a problem. We have to get that addressed and we've got to do it better. Obviously I haven't gotten it solved.”

Snap issues between Dalton and Bodine date back to last year’s training camp, with Harvey noting that, “Balls were sent at Dalton's feet with him both under center and in shotgun formations. Others screamed over the signal-caller's head. Others were too far to the left or right of him.” Initially chocked up to Bodine’s then-rookie status and thought to be behind him given that they did not recur during the 2014 season, they have resurfaced this summer to the chagrin of everyone.

Jackson believes the problem will be solved, saying “We’ll fix it. There’s a lot of ways to fix it.” He didn’t rule out—nor did he rule in—the idea of making a switch at center permanently, though Jackson did pull Bodine from the first-team offense on Tuesday and replaced him with backup T.J. Johnson to finish the team’s 11-on-11 drills. Bodine returned to the first-team later in the day.

Jackson is understandably miffed about Bodine’s regression, saying “I'm tired of watching it. I'm tired of seeing it. That's the single fundamental thing we have to do if nothing else; is to get the snap from the center.” But he’s also not resigned to it, either, saying, “I'm glad it's happening now and it's not a regular-season game. We have time to get it worked out and we will get it worked out.”

Baltimore Ravens: Ravens to Celebrate the Franchise’s Top-10 Players This Season

The 2015 season marks the 20-year anniversary of the Baltimore Ravens as an NFL franchise, and to commemorate the occasion, the Ravens have asked their fans to vote for the top-10 players in team history. The 10 players will be featured on individual game tickets, and each player will be invited to their games to be honored during halftime, the team announced on Wednesday. The only exceptions are the three current players fans voted on—quarterback Joe Flacco, guard Marshal Yanda and linebacker Terrell Suggs—who will be replaced by other legendary Ravens players.

The honors begin in Preseason Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, where former Ravens linebacker and current Senior Advisor to Player Engagement O.J. Brigance will be recognized. That continues on Preseason Week 3, when former kicker Matt Stover will be honored and will extend throughout the season.

Other players to be honored are Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Ed Reed (who will also be inducted to the Ravens’ Ring of Honor), Todd Heap and Jarret Johnson. The final player, to be honored on December 27, is yet to be determined. 


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