CLEVELAND BROWNS (8-9)
CAMP SITE: Berea, Ohio
LAST YEAR: Expected to make a run at the AFC title, the Browns flopped. There was distracting drama, costly injuries and questionable strategy as coach Kevin Stefanski’s second season was completely opposite from his first, when the Browns won a playoff game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield never recovered from a shoulder injury in Week 2, and Cleveland’s offense sputtered despite a superb line and playmakers. WR Odell Beckham’ Jr.’s messy release divided the locker room and fan base. Led by All-Pro DE Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defense continued to improve during the season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, rookie K Cade York, DE Chase Winovich, QB Jacoby Brissett, C Ethan Pocic, rookie WR David Bell, P Corey Bojorquez, WR/KR Jakeem Grant.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, C JC Tretter, WR Odell Beckham Jr., K Chase McLaughlin, LB Mack Wilson, WR Rashard Higgins, CB Troy Hill, DT Malik Jackson, FB Andy Janovich, DT Malik McDowell, CB M.J. Stewart.
CAMP NEEDS: Watson’s availability remains unknown as camp approaches. Following months of legal issues and a hearing, the NFL’s disciplinary officer will decide whether he violated its personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen massage therapists in Texas. If he’s suspended for multiple games, the Browns will need to get backup Jacoby Brissett ready to start the season. And depending on the length of Watson’s punishment, the team could pursue other QB options.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: Cooper wanted out of Dallas and yearned to be a No. 1 receiver. He’ll get his chance with the Browns, who may lean more on their run-heavy attack should Watson be out. Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell are slotted in behind Cooper and must show they’re ready for expanded roles. Nick Harris takes over at center for the dependable Tretter, the NFLPA president released during the offseason. Cleveland’s No. 3 cornerback spot will be a battle between Greedy Williams and rookie Martin Emerson.
EXPECTATIONS: Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam went all-in with their trade for Watson — they gave up three first-round picks — and signed him to a five-year, fully-guaranteed $230 million contract. If their gamble pays off and Watson plays this season, the Browns are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If he’s out for an extended period, it could be another wasted year for one of the league’s most talented teams. The Sept. 11 opener in Carolina will be interesting with a potential matchup against Mayfield, who was traded by the Browns after four up-and-down seasons.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +3400
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7-1)
CAMP SITE: Latrobe, Pennsylvania
LAST YEAR: The Steelers reached the playoffs in QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, getting there with a mostly smoke and mirrors approach. The Steelers were 8-2-1 in one-score games and 1-5 when the margin was nine points or more. They were outclassed in the playoffs, getting blown out in Kansas City in Roethlisberger’s final game. While the defense struggled against the run — finishing last — linebacker T.J. Watt looked worth every penny of his record-setting contract, winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year after racking up an NFL-record tying 22 1/2 sacks. Rookie running back Najee Harris was every bit as good as advertised, rolling up 1,667 total yards and 10 touchdowns. The passing game, however, was pedestrian most of the season and the inability to consistently get the ball downfield because of protection issues and a decline in Roethlisberger’s accuracy when going deep combined to make Pittsburgh predictable and often overmatched against quality opponents.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Mitch Trubisky, QB Kenny Pickett, WR George Pickens, DE DeMarvin Leal, WR Calvin Austin III, LB Myles Jack, OL James Daniel, C Mason Cole, CB Levi Wallace, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Gunner Olszewski, GM Omar Khan (promoted to replace Kevin Colbert), assistant GM Kevin Weidl. Senior defensive assistant Brian Flores.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Ben Roethlisberger (retired), DE Stephon Tuitt (retired), GM Kevin Colbert (retired), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR James Washington, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, TE Eric Ebron, LB Joe Schobert, OG Trai Turner, RT Zach Banner.
CAMP NEEDS: The Steelers return to Saint Vincent College for the first time since 2019 this summer, and head to camp with a question mark at quarterback for the first time in a generation following Roethlisberger’s retirement. Perhaps even bigger than who the starter is will be cohesion in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The offensive line has been revamped for the second time in as many seasons with the arrival of Daniel and Cole and the defensive line is hoping a fully recovered Tyson Alualu plus the late addition of Ogunjobi will give perennial Pro Bowler Cam Heyward some needed help.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: The three-way duel — for now — between Trubisky, Pickett and Mason Rudolph will dominate the conversation throughout August. Trubisky worked almost exclusively with the starters during organized team activities and minicamp, meaning if he’s going to be unseated, he’s going to have to be outplayed by a considerable margin. There are few other truly vacant jobs up for grabs, though Ogunjobi — if healthy — could be in line to take the majority of snaps at defensive tackle, which would let Alualu be more of a rotational player at age 35.
EXPECTATIONS: There’s a sense offensive coordinator Matt Canada met Roethlisberger in the middle last season in terms of what the offense would look like. Expect Canada to add several new wrinkles now that he has a couple of quarterbacks that — while lacking Roethlisberger’s resume — will be able to make plays outside of the pocket. The addition of Flores, who was fired by the Dolphins in January and then filed a class-action suit against the NFL for what he alleges are racist hiring practices, gives head coach Mike Tomlin another brain to pick as he and first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin try to restore a bit of toughness to a defense that was pushed around at times.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +7000