Stop, take a look around

The AFC North hasn't changed all that much after the initial wave of free agency.

With Ben Roethlisberger due a $3 million roster bonus March 5, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been focused on signing their franchise quarterback.

And that deal is getting closer to happening.

Meanwhile, save guard Alan Faneca's signing with the New York Jets, all has been relatively quiet for the Steelers on the free agent front, particularly compared to what's been happening with some of their rivals in the AFC North.

Cleveland has been a major player in the first few days of free agency, signing former New England wide receiver Donte Stallworth to a seven-year, $35-million contract; trading a third-round draft pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden to Detroit for defensive tackle Shaun Rogers; sending a second-round pick to Green Bay for defensive end Corey Williams – and signing him to a six-year, $38-million deal; and re-signing quarterback Derek Anderson to a three-year, $26-million deal.

Consider the team had already signed running back Jamal Lewis to a three-year, $17-million deal prior to the opening of free agency, and the Browns have taken on a ridiculous amount of money for what? A quarterback with one good season under his belt, an overweight nose tackle who played – when he felt like it – on the worst defense in the NFL last season, a defensive end who's never played in a 3-4, and a wide receiver who has spent more time nursing injuries than he has catching passes during his career.

In return, the Browns have given up pretty much their entire 2008 draft and their best cornerback.

It's a pretty big gamble, one that could add up to a winning season or two, but in the long run will severely damage Cleveland considering the amount of money the Browns are spending.

There's no guarantee those moves are going to make the Browns any better than they were in 2007.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, has seen two of its better defensive players, defensive end Justin Smith and free safety Madieu Williams, sign with San Francisco and Minnesota, respectively.

And the Bengals have yet to make a free agent addition, failing in their attempt to trade for Rogers.

Considering the Bengals' defense was among the worst in the league last season – and in the past decade, for that matter – that's not a good sign.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has had no free agent losses, but hasn't added anyone, either.

So while Steelers fans may gnash their teeth over the loss of Faneca – something that hurts, but was not unexpected – a quick look around the division shows Pittsburgh isn't really in bad shape.

Certainly losing Faneca hurts the Steelers, but don't think for a second that the team is going to sit on its hands and come back with the same cast of characters – minus Faneca – that it fielded in 2007.

Signing Roethlisberger to a long-term contract was the team's main focus for this offseason, as it should have been, and that's going to get done.

And once it is, the Steelers will focus on the offensive line, both in free agency and the draft.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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