AFC North Update: A look back on each team after 3 preseason games

A recap of preseason week 3 action involving teams in the AFC North Follows:



St. Louis          24    


New Orleans     13   


Detroit              26   


Pittsburgh         12   



RAVENS   (1 – 2)


Troy Smith’s illness kept the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback derby on hold. Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner who’s battling incumbent Kyle Boller for the Ravens’ quarterback spot, missed a scheduled start and a chance to seize the job because of a viral illness, spending the game at the team hotel. Smith had been set to play as long as three quarters. Third-stringer Joe Flacco, the Ravens’ first-rounder this year, played the entire game and failed to generate much until the second half while going 18-for-37 for 152 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Ravens couldn’t capitalize on favorable field possession their first two drives, spurred by a 37-yard opening kickoff return by Yamon Figurs and a partially blocked punt by rookie Tom Zbikowski that gave them possession on the

St. Louis
20 for their second drive before settling for a chip shot field goal by Matt Stover.


The Ravens played their starting offensive line at the start of the third quarter and Flacco produced a 75-yard scoring drive. Derrick Mason caught four passes for all but 14 of the yards, capped by a 15-yard touchdown catch that was the first touchdown against the Rams’ first-string defense in the preseason.
"It was a really good chance for me to get in there and get my feet wet," Flacco said. "There were things I would have liked to have done better. It was a great learning experience." Ravens CB Samari Rolle (leg) and LB Terrell Suggs (franchise tag holdout) each played for the first time in the preseason.


BENGALS   (1 – 2)

Carson Palmer’s nose was scraped and swollen. Both nostrils were bleeding. A nasty cut on his lower lip left a trail of blood that dribbled down his chin and deposited red dots on the white No. 9 on the front of his jersey. As he walked off the field in pain, the quarterback’s face was as big a mess as his offense. The New Orleans Saints sacked Palmer three times in the first half Saturday night in a 13-0 victory that underscored the Cincinnati Bengals’ growing problem. Right now, it’s as bad as it gets. The Bengals couldn’t move the ball or protect their franchise quarterback in the first half. Palmer left the game after former teammate Kevin Kaesviharn got to him on a third-down safety blitz with 2 seconds left before halftime. A line that gave up only 17 sacks last season was fuming at its inability to protect him.
"That’s the thing that’s hurting me right now, to see

getting hit," guard Bobbie Williams said. "It hurts me deeply."
With Pro Bowl receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh sidelined by injuries and two of their backups out as well, Palmer had nowhere to go with his passes other than the running backs and tight ends. The Bengals managed only 94 yards in the first half and never advanced farther than the Saints’ 47-yard line during the game. They hadn’t been shut out in the preseason since 1999 at

. It was the first time in franchise history they were shut out at home during an exhibition.


BROWNS   (0 – 3)

QB Brady Quinn barely broke the century mark in yards passing and failed to make a big play, helping the Detroit Lions beat the Cleveland Browns 26-6 in an exhibition Saturday. The former Notre Dame star, taken 22nd overall last year, had just a few days to get prepared after Derek Anderson was knocked out of Monday night’s game and playmakers Braylon Edwards and Jamal Lewis were missing from the Browns’ lineup. Quinn, though, said criticism is merited after he was 14-of-24 for 106 yards without a score, turnover or a pass longer than 16 yards.
"There’s nothing unfair about it," he insisted. "You can say it was a short week. You can say what you want, but I’m not that type of guy. I completely take the burden for his loss. I didn’t execute and I didn’t get in a rhythm to let the team drive down the field."
The Browns were handed a blow Monday night when

left a preseason game against the New York Giants with a concussion. Last season,

made Charlie Frye expendable and kept Quinn on the bench as a rookie. The Browns weren’t playing with many players who helped them win 10 games last season. Missing were Anderson, Edwards, Lewis, linebacker Willie McGinest, safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool along with return specialist Joshua Cribbs. WR Kevin Kasper left the game with a mild concussion. QB Ken Dorsey was 13-of-22 for 94 yards.


STEELERS   (2 – 1)

Jeff Reed was delighted by the defensive struggle. He kicked 4 field goals for the Steelers, the last a 37-yarder with 4 seconds left and claimed it felt "like a big-time playoff football game." Missing mainstay guard Alan Faneca after 10 standout seasons, the Steelers’ offensive line didn’t protect very well. Justin Hartwig, fighting Sean Mahan for the job at center, started in the middle.

"When you play a front as talented as they are … it’s going to be tough sledding," Coach Mike Tomlin said.

Edwards and Kevin Williams had consecutive sacks in the second quarter, the series before Williams ran down rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall and forced a fumble that Tyrell Johnson recovered near midfield. Ben Roethlisberger, who signed an eight-year contract extension in March worth up to $102 million, completed 10 of 17 passes for 65 yards, mostly to tight end Heath Miller. Byron Leftwich played the entire second half and drove

into position for Reed’s winning kick. The Steelers slyly threw a trick formation into the video library of future opponents, when Roethlisberger lined up as a wide receiver and twice Willie Parker took a direct snap. On a drive late in the fourth quarter, with

trailing by one point, Mendenhall — who totaled 79 yards; on 15 carries — fumbled again. Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu lobbied the coaching staff to play, but failed. A hamstring injury kept him out of practice until this week. Another starter, linebacker Larry Foote, hurt his left knee in the first quarter and didn’t return.

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