AFC Rumors: Steelers, Broncos, Titans

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey‘s career could end when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s does, relays Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pouncey’s still young (he’ll turn 28 in July), but it’s possible the seventh-year man and five-time Pro Bowler would rather hang it up than continue with someone other than Roethlisberger, who mulled retirement after last season and is entering his age-35 campaign. “It will be hard for me to come back if he’s not here,” Pouncey said of Roethlisberger. “Whenever you’re playing with that level of quarterback, to try to switch that up would be a different mojo for everybody on the team. … I’m glad he came back. We need him to win a championship around here.”

More on Pittsburgh and two other AFC clubs:

  • Three Broncos who have gone high in recent drafts, wide receiver Cody Latimer, offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo and tight end Jeff Heuerman, will have to fight for their roster spots in training camp, observes Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. Latimer, a second-rounder in 2014, hasn’t made much of an impact as a receiver (16 career catches), and he’s not in position to change that with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie ahead of him on the depth chart. As such, his best hope is to make the Broncos as a special teamer, posits Wolfe, who expects that to happen. Sambrailo, meanwhile, went in the second round a year later and has only totaled 13 appearances and seven starts. Even if he cracks the Broncos’ roster, Sambrailo seems likely to serve as primarily a backup again, as the team spent a first-rounder on tackle Garett Bolles this year after adding fellow bookend Menelik Watson on a three-year, $18.3MM deal in free agency. And then there’s Heuerman, a 2015 third-rounder who missed his entire rookie year with a torn ACL and then caught nine passes in 12 games last season. He’ll have to fend off Henry Krieger-Coble to make the team, notes Wolfe. Denver’s other tight end options include Virgil Green, A.J. Derby and fifth-rounder Jake Butt, a former Michigan standout who’s working back from the torn ACL he suffered in his final college game last December.
  • As a rookie last season, fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe finished second among Titans wide receivers in catches (41), targets (83) and yards (522) in 2016. Nevertheless, it seems he’ll enter camp with a weak hold on a roster spot, writes Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. The Titans used two valuable picks on receivers – Corey Davis in the first round and Taywan Taylor in the third – in the spring and then signed established veteran Eric Decker last week. Those additions combined with Sharpe’s questionable health (he recently underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot) and a police investigation over an alleged assault have the 22-year-old in limbo, according to Wolf.
  • The fact that the Steelers have a deep receiving corps means third-year man Sammie Coates will have to battle for a spot in camp, suggests Fowler. Coates was a relatively high selection in 2015, when he went in Round 3 of the draft, but the ex-Auburn star has totaled just 22 receptions in 21 games as a Steeler. A broken finger and a groin injury likely contributed to Coates’ underwhelming output last season (21 catches on 49 targets, two touchdowns), and he indicated that he’s nearing full health with camp approaching. “I’m getting there. It’s a process,” said Coates, who underwent sports hernia surgery over the winter. “That’s what this process is for, to get your body back so you can compete during camp.”
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