AFC North Notes: Lewis, Browns, Steelers

Marvin Lewis again refused to confirm the report by’s Adam Schefter indicating he was planning to step away from the Bengals after 15 seasons, but the veteran coach did make a comment about his desire to coach the team after this season. Asked if he wanted to coach football next season, Lewis responded, “I’m (gonna) coach football.” Asked if he wanted to coach the Bengals, Lewis replied, “Sure,” per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bengals have been outscored 67-14 over the past two weeks and are going to finish with their second straight losing record. Lewis does not have a contract in place for 2018 after multiple years of offseason one-year extensions.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC North.

  • With the Steelers losing to the Patriots and thus unable to clinch home-field advantage in Week 16, the Browns‘ final realistic chance to avoid becoming the second 0-16 team ever could hinge on Sunday’s game in Chicago. And Hue Jackson will stick with his current quarterback for that Bears tilt. DeShone Kizer will make his 14th start of the season. This comes after Jackson admitted he considered benching the rookie after yet another shaky performance. Monday, though, Jackson said (via Mary Kay Cabot of the Notre Dame product was “up to the challenge” of starting another game. The Browns, who face the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 17, are now 1-29 in Jackson’s 30 games. Kizer boasts a 59.4 quarterback rating and a 24.5 QBR.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk floated the idea of the Browns attempting to trade Jackson to the Bengals, and’s Peter King notes John Dorsey would probably rather part with Jackson than keeping the incumbent around for 2018. Florio adds Dorsey declining to answer a direct question about Jackson being back for 2018 adds fuel to the fire the Browns would consider an about-face and can Jackson after two remarkably unsuccessful seasons. Jimmy Haslam said twice publicly Jackson would be back, and Florio reports, however, the owner has said the same thing in private. An 0-16 season, though, could change the equation. King writes a third-round pick may be all that would be necessary for the Bengals to send to Cleveland in the event this hypothetical scenario occurred. The second-year Cleveland coach said Monday, however, he wasn’t interested in succeeding Lewis in Cincinnati despite the former succession plan that was in place for him with the franchise. Jackson was Cincinnati’s OC for two seasons and coached under Lewis for seven years encompassing two stints.
  • Now just one game ahead of the Jaguars (and their head-to-head tiebreaker) for the AFC’s No. 2 seed, the Steelers will have to reshuffle their running back corps for the time being. Le’Veon Bell will need a new backup for the time being after Mike Garafolo of revealed (on Twitter) James Conner will need knee surgery. Garafolo reports the rookie will likely need a few weeks to recover from this. Like Antonio Brown‘s regular-season-ending calf injury, Conner’s setback adds additional incentive for the Steelers to secure a bye by winning their final two games. Pittsburgh has veteran Fitzgerald Toussaint as the only other halfback on its roster.
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