2019 RECORD: 6-10.
CAMP SITE: Berea, Ohio.
LAST YEAR: Browns fell woefully short of high expectations. Early projections of playoffs fizzled quickly under first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, whose successful stint as interim offensive coordinator in 2018 won over ownership. Quarterback Baker Mayfield regressed in his second year, undone by poor play from offensive line and injuries that hampered star receivers Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry all season. Running back Nick Chubb emerged as one of club’s best players. Defensive end Myles Garrett missed final six games after helmet-swinging attack on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Kevin Stefanski, Defensive coordinator Joe Woods, RT Jake Conklin, TE Austin Hooper, LT Jedrick Wills, QB Case Keenum, DT Andrew Billings, LB B.J. Goodson, DE Adrian Clayborn, S Andrew Sendejo, FB Andy Janovich.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Joe Schobert, LB Christian Kirksey, S Damarious Randall, S Morgan Burnett, LT Greg Robinson.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Stefanski has yet to meet many of his players in person. Virtual offseason prevented first-year coach and staff from assessing team’s on-field talent, and will be difficult to make up for lost time.
CAMP NEEDS: Wills played right side at Alabama, and his transition to pivotal spot protecting Mayfield’s blindside will be daily focus. Second-year linebackers Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki need to step up to replace Schobert and Kirksey, both solid contributors and citizens. Rookie safety Grant Delpit from LSU expected to compete for starting job.
EXPECTATIONS: Browns aren’t NFL’s trendy team this summer and that should take some pressure off Stefanski, who has shown strong leadership during difficult first few months. His success will hinge on Mayfield, who must bounce back from rough season and prove again he’s capable of being franchise QB. He’s got plenty of playmakers, but challenge now will be keeping Beckham, Landry, Chubb and Kareem Hunt satisfied with touches.
2019 RECORD: 8-8.
CAMP SITE: Pittsburgh.
LAST YEAR: Steelers lost star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at halftime of Week 2 because of right elbow injury. Yet they somehow managed to stay in playoff race until final weeks thanks in large part to defense galvanized by arrival of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in trade and evolution of outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree into one of best edge rush tandems in league.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Eric Ebron, FB Derek Watt, OL Stefen Wisniewski, DL Chris Wormley, WR Chase Claypool, LB Alex Highsmith, RB Anthony McFarland Jr., WR coach Ike Hilliard, QB coach Matt Canada.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: G Ramon Foster, NT Javon Hargrave, LB Mark Barron, LB Anthony Chickillo, WR Johnny Holton, TE Nick Vannett.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: For first time in more than half-century, Steelers will hold camp somewhere other than Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Team will work out of Heinz Field instead. Getting gauge on Roethlisberger’s progress from elbow surgery has been difficult because of lack of reps during organized team activities and minicamp. While 38-year-old drew praises from his receivers during informal workouts, coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t seen Roethlisberger throw with his own eyes since last September.
CAMP NEEDS: Offseason moves were predicated on idea that Roethlisberger will pick up where he left off in 2018, when he won league passing title. Ebron and Claypool were added to give Roethlisberger red zone options. Offensive line will have new look following popular Foster’s retirement and defensive line will have to adjust after Hargrave’s exit, but key pieces of unit that kept team competitive without Roethlisberger remain in place.
EXPECTATIONS: Window closing on Roethlisberger’s stellar career, and Steelers have loaded up to send him out strong. Still, Pittsburgh needs backup Mason Rudolph to take another step forward during camp just in case Roethlisberger’s comeback hits speed bump. Defense should be one of league’s best, and even modest improvement offensively should return Pittsburgh to playoff contention.
2019 RECORD: 2-14.
CAMP SITE: Cincinnati.
LAST YEAR: In coach Zac Taylor’s first season, Bengals matched franchise record for worst finish and set club record by dropping first 11 games. They extended their streak of no playoff wins since 1990 season, fifth-longest in NFL history. QB Andy Dalton was benched at midseason but returned to get team’s two wins over Jets and Browns, who fired their coach after the game.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Joe Burrow, WR Tee Higgins, CB Trae Waynes, S Vonn Bell, CB LeShaun Sims, CB Mackensie Alexander, DE D.J. Reader, LB Josh Bynes, G Xavier Su’a-Filo.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Andy Dalton, LT Cordy Glenn, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB B.W. Webb, G John Miller, LB Nick Vigil, TE Tyler Eifert, CB Darqueze Dennard, DT Andrew Billings.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Burrow had to learn offense in offseason without actually running it, huge challenge for rookie quarterback. An overhauled offensive line also will be trying to develop chemistry in shortened time frame.
CAMP NEEDS: Coaching staff will have to figure out how much of the offense to install initially with Burrow running it for first time. Receiver A.J. Green signed franchise tag offer, keeping him around for Burrow’s rookie season. Now they need to develop connection on the field.
EXPECTATIONS: After essentially staying the course with roster in Taylor’s first season, Bengals launched makeover. They’ve at least made themselves relevant again after four straight losing seasons. How quickly Burrow develops will be overriding theme of season.
2019 RECORD: 14-3.
CAMP SITE: Owings Mills, Maryland.
LAST YEAR: Baltimore rode record-setting offense to best regular-season record in NFL, then opened playoffs with humbling loss to Tennessee that ended 12-game winning streak. Ravens got brilliant performance from NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, who set single-season record for yards rushing by quarterback and guided offense that shattered single-season mark for yards rushing. But all that went for naught when Titans bolted to 14-0 lead and forced Baltimore to abandon running game in effort to catch up. Jackson ran for 143 yards and passed for 365 yards, but produced only one TD in 28-12 defeat.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DE Derek Wolfe, DE Calais Campbell, G D.J. Fluker, LB Jake Ryan, LB Patrick Queen, RB J.K. Dobbins, WR Devin Duvernay, LB Malik Harrison.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: G Marshal Yanda, DT Michael Pierce, TE Hayden Hurst, RT James Hurst, LB Patrick Onawuasor, LB Josh Bynes, DE Chris Wormley, WR Seth Roberts, S Tony Jefferson, CB Brandon Carr.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Ravens tried to cope with pandemic by conducting team meetings on Zoom, but there’s work to be done on field to incorporate Campbell, Wolfe, Ryan and Queen into new-look defense. In addition, Jackson has started only one full season and needs on-field training to take next step in development as complete QB.
CAMP NEEDS: Ravens need to solidify offensive line that will be without Yanda for first time 2007 and has C Matt Skura returning from knee surgery. Offense also looking for more vertical routes from WRs beyond Marquise Brown. Defense will seek to develop better pass rush than last year, when Matthew Judon had 9 1/2 of team’s 37 sacks.
EXPECTATIONS: Ravens provided Jackson with more playmakers in Dobbins and Duvernay, so they hope to be just as good if not better on offense. Addition of Campbell and Wolfe should make up for loss of Pierce and Wormley on solid defense. Determined to bounce back from 2019 season that ended in disappointment, Baltimore expects to claim another AFC North title and put together playoff run that will lead to Super Bowl.