AFC North Notes: Smith, Brown, Allen, Browns

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot sprain) will be out “at least a few weeks,” writes the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson, who points to Nov. 24 against the Saints or the following week against the Chargers as possible return dates for Smith. When asked about adding a free-agent cornerback, head coach John Harbaugh said, “We don’t have to. If we can find the right guy, we’ll do that. They are scarce.” Instead, for now, the Ravens will turn to Dominique Franks to replace Smith. The team also has Chykie Brown, who has been inactive the last two games.

In other AFC North news…

  • Despite the Ravens stating publicly they don’t intend to go outside the current roster for cornerback help, Wilson tweets the team inquired about Tony Carter of the Broncos prior to the trade deadline.
  • The Steelers are another AFC North team with cornerback issues because Cortez Allen, who signed a five-year, $25MM deal before the season, has not only lost his starting job, but is in danger of being inactive, writes Ray Fittipaldo in the Post-Gazette. Head coach Mike Tomlin insists he remains confident in Allen’s abilities, but says the cornerback is leaving too many plays on the field: “[Allen] has to finish opportunities that he’s not getting done. Oftentimes, he is in position because he does a great job getting in position, but position is just an element of it. You have to finish.”
  • Fittipaldo also notes the Steelers expect to have right tackle Marcus Gilbert back in the starting lineup. He sat out last week with a concussion.
  • Steelers receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions and targets, ranks second in receiving yards, is fourth in receiving touchdowns and paces all receivers with a 13.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. In Brown’s case, the stats don’t lie, says Tomlin, who boasted (via the team’s website) that the fifth-year playmaker is performing at an elite level. “He’s one of the best in the world at what he does,” said Tomlin at his weekly news conference. “(Antonio) is physically and mentally on top of his game, and when you have somebody who’s playing like that, you step into a stadium and he’s a known issue but still he performs. We say similar things about guys like J.J. Watt. We knew what he was capable of when we were getting ready to play the Houston Texans, but it still doesn’t stop the storm from coming. Antonio is playing at that type of a level from a wide receiver standpoint, a J.J. Watt discussion kind of a level.”
  • The Browns rank last in the NFL in punt returns, which prompted ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi to wonder if Josh Cribbs might get a phone call. However, head coach Mike Pettine quashed any speculation by saying, “Josh’s name hasn’t come up.”
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