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No Ben, no problem: Steelers run over Rams

St. Louis Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will need Ben Roethlisberger healthy in January to make another run to the Super Bowl. But they didn’t need him today to roll over the St. Louis Rams.

With Charlie Batch starting at quarterback, the Steelers beat the Rams with a ground-based attack and a stiff defense that forced quarterback Kellen Clemens into a miserable day, as the Steelers dominated, winning 27-0.

John Clay, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman all scored rushing touchdowns for the Steelers. Rams running back Steven Jackson ran hard all day and went over 100 yards, but it was a lost cause: The rest of the Rams’ offense was awful.

For the Rams, the loss means they remain alive for the first overall pick in the draft: If they lose next week and the Colts win, St. Louis will pick first, which opens up all kinds of fascinating possibilities regarding what they would do, just two years after drafting Sam Bradford first overall. Trading the first pick to a team that covets Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck could get the Rams a bounty of draft picks.

For the Steelers, the win means they remain alive for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, although they’re going to need to win next week and get some help. And whether they get that win and that help or not, they’re going to need Roethlisberger’s ankle to heal — in the playoffs, they’ll be playing teams a whole lot better than the Rams.

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Chiefs defend decision to pick Tyreek Hill

Zz00ODViMjJmMjU0Y2VlY2JiZWQyYTFlMDY2NjkzNzVlYg== AP

Talent continues to trump character concerns in the NFL, even if the bar is now higher for getting a player a second chance — and lower for keeping him out.

The Chiefs deemed West Alabama return specialist Tyreek Hill to be good enough to get a shot at the NFL, and his misconduct not bad enough to prevent it. The Chiefs, who were called out locally by Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star for picking a player who pleaded guilty in 2015 to punching an choking his pregnant girlfriend while at Oklahoma State, have defended the decision.

G.M. John Dorsey and Chiefs coach Andy Reid held a Saturday night press conference specifically to address concerns arising from the use of a fifth-round pick on Hill.

“I know that I would never put this community in any type of situation where it would not be good and we’ve done that,” Dorsey said, via Mellinger. “I would like to ask for you guys to just have a little bit of trust in us in this thing.”

“There has to be a certain trust here, but there’s just things that we can’t go into and go through,” Reid said, according to Terez Paylor and Tod Palmer of the Star. “We want people to understand, like [Dorsey] said, we’re not going to do anything to put this community or this organization in a bind. We uncovered every possible stone that we possibly could, and we feel very comfortable with that part of it.”

Reid explained that Hill has worked to rectify his past issues, which occurred when he allegedly punched his girlfriend in the face and choked her twice, when she was two months pregnant.

“Before you’re given a second chance, you better be doing the right things,” Reid said. “So he’s been in counseling, he’ll continue to be in counseling, we’ve got a great support system here for that with quality people. We feel good that he’s trying to right a wrong, a big wrong. But he’s trying to do better, and be a better person for it. And that part, we feel very confident in.”

Hill, who also spoke to reporters on Saturday night, expressed gratitude for the team’s decision to embrace uncanny talents as a return specialist and to overlook his past.

“I got questions everywhere I went, so it wasn’t anything new to me,” Hill said. “I would have just told them straight up, ‘I’m trying to move on from that. I’m trying to be a better young man. I’m trying to show who I truly am.’ Stuff like that. . . . The only thing I did say was, ‘I’m sorry. I messed up. I embarrassed the program at [Oklahoma State]. I embarrassed the coaches. I embarrassed a lot of people back at home.’ That’s it. That’s how I explained it. I really don’t want to go into detail.”

It’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to go into detail. Too much detail would allow a mental picture of what happened to be created.

But no mental picture would as potent as video. If, as in Ray Rice’s case, fans and media could see what Hill did to his pregnant girlfriend, Hill could be Gale Sayers, Devin Hester, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, and Dante Hall rolled into one and it wouldn’t have mattered.

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New Lions G.M. Bob Quinn fires two scouts he inherited

Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, left, poses with their new general manager Bob Quinn, right, during a news conference Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) AP

When Bob Quinn was hired as the Lions’ General Manager in January, he kept on board many of the scouts that he inherited. But now that the draft is over, he’s cutting two of them loose.

Quinn fired scouts Chad Henry and Darren Anderson, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.

It’s not unusual for teams to fire scouts after the draft. Quinn may have felt when he took the job that he needed to go in a different direction with the scouting staff, but that he didn’t want to lose the scouts who had already spent the entire college football season scouting players. Now that the draft is over, those scouts’ services are no longer needed.

As Quinn reshapes the Lions’ front office, several personnel people he inherited have been let go. Scott McEwen, the Lions’ longest-tenured scout, and Sheldon White, V.P. of pro personnel, were both fired soon after Quinn took the job.

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Buccaneers announce 19 undrafted free agent signings

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 14:  Isaiah Johnson #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks breaks up a pass to Demarcus Robinson #11 of the Florida Gators during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The seven players drafted by the Buccaneers over the weekend won’t be the only rookies joining the roster ahead of the team’s rookie minicamp.

That camp gets underway on Thursday and there will be 19 undrafted free agents taking part after they agreed to terms with the Bucs. Among the players that will be vying for a role is safety Isaiah Johnson, who played for secondary coach Jon Hoke at South Carolina when Hoke was the school’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach last year.

They also signed wide receiver Anthony Kelly, who wouldn’t mind following in the footsteps of Kutztown’s most decorated football alum although matching Andre Reed’s production is a lot to ask.

Auburn running back Peyton Barber, West Chester tight end Tim Brown, Colorado State tight end Kivon Cartwright, Oregon linebacker Tyson Coleman, Memphis fullback/tight end Alan Cross, Memphis tackle Taylor Fallin, Missouri running back Russ Hansbrough, Northwestern safety Traveon Henry, Auburn defensive end DaVonte Lambert, Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, Western Kentucky defensive tackle Jonatavius Morris, William & Mary linebacker Luke Rhodes, West Georgia guard Dominique Robertson, Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate, Ohio Dominican wide receiver Dez Stewart, Ole Miss defensive end Channing Ward and Missouri Western tackle Leonard Wester round out the group.

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Browns won’t pick up Barkevious Mingo’s option

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Barkevious Mingo is going to be heavier on the field this year, but lighter in the wallet in the future.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Browns aren’t picking up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. He’s still under contract for 2016, but the option for 2017 would have cost them $11.9 million.

That made it an easy call, since he didn’t have a single sack last year, and has just 7.0 in three seasons.

They’re hoping to find a way to tap into his pass-rush potential this year, but they weren’t going to invest heavily in a guy who has yet to produce to the level of his world-class name.

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Rams exercise 2017 options on Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 27:  Wide receiver Tavon Austin #11 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams had two first-round picks in 2013 and they would like to hold onto both players through the 2017 season.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Rams have exercised fifth-year options on both wide receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Both options are guaranteed against injury only and both players are free to sign a longer deal with the team at any point.

Austin, who was the eighth overall pick in 2013, will make over $12 million under the terms of the option. He’s played in 44 games for the Rams over the last three years and set career highs with 52 catches, 473 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns last season. Austin also ran 52 times for 434 yards and four touchdowns and ran his streak of seasons with a punt return touchdown to three.

The Rams likely hope Austin’s impact as a receiver continues to rise now that they’ve added Jared Goff at quarterback and they could revisit Austin’s option down the line if that’s not the case.

Ogletree was the 30th overall pick and is in line to make $6.7 million in 2017 under the option. He’s been a starter since joining the Rams, but missed 12 games last season with a broken leg. He’s expected back in the lineup this season and will be spending more time in the middle with James Laurinaitis out of the picture.

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Washington cuts cornerback Chris Culliver

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

It wasn’t long ago Chris Culliver was Washington’s high-priced answer to their cornerback problem.

As has so often been the case, he’s now unemployed.

Via Tarik El-Bashir of CSNMidAtlantic.com, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan said that Culliver had just been released.

With the signing of former Panthers franchise-player Josh Norman and drafting Kendall Fuller, Culliver was the odd man out.

He’s coming off his second ACL tear in three years, but was only one year removed from a four-year, $32 million contract. Of course, the 2016 guarantees were voided when he was suspended one game for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, making it easier to swallow from a financial standpoint.

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Lions sign former Titans LB Zaviar Gooden

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 23: Chris Polk #32 of the Philadelphia Eagles attempts to get by Zaviar Gooden #50 of the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter during a football game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 23, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Titans 43-24. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

Teams across the league are announcing the signings of undrafted rookies, but there’s some movement with veteran players to report as well.

The Lions announced that they have signed former Titans linebacker Zaviar Gooden to their 90-man roster.

Gooden was a third-round pick by Tennessee in the 2013 draft and was released off of injured reserve last year after he tore his hamstring during the preseason. Before the injury, Gooden played 24 games over two years with Tennessee and recorded 36 tackles while making three starts.

Gooden’s arrival comes a couple of days after General Manager Bob Quinn said there was no update regarding linebacker Stephen Tulloch’s status with the team. Tulloch’s departure has been expected for a couple of months, but, for now, he remains on the team’s roster despite the additions of Gooden and fifth-round pick Antwione Williams.

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Colts cut center Khaled Holmes, three others

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Getty Images

The Colts found their new center on the first day of the draft, so they had no more use for last year’s replacement.

The team announced they had cut Khaled Holmes, along with tight end Cameron Clear, long snapper Forrest Hill and tackle Mitchell Van Dyk.

The other three were all signed this offseason, but Holmes had a much longer chance with the Colts.

Their 2013 fourth-rounder, Holmes started nine games in three seasons, filling in for seven games last year.

But with first-rounder Ryan Kelly coming on board in the first round, he was deemed surplus to requirements.

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John Schneider: Seahawks won’t give No. 24 to anyone this year

during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Getty Images

Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin asked the team not to issue No. 24 to any players for “years to come” out of respect for what running back Marshawn Lynch did while wearing it for the team.

We’re not sure what’s going to happen in 2017 and beyond, but Baldwin doesn’t have to worry about seeing Lynch’s old digits on someone else’s back. During an appearance on “Brock and Salk” on 710 ESPN, Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said he appreciated Baldwin’s input and desire to “help distribute jersey numbers” while adding that he’d already told Lynch that his number would remain unused in 2016.

“One of my last conversations with Marshawn was that nobody was going to wear No. 24 this year in the regular season,” Schneider said.

Schneider said that despite the fact that Lynch has yet to formally file retirement papers, which means the Seahawks still hold his rights. The team has said in the past that their understanding is that Lynch is committed to retirement and Schneider said Monday that the team was prepared whether they got the papers “before June 1 or after.”

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Titans won’t pick up fifth-year option on Chance Warmack

Warmack AP

The Titans spent draft weekend getting bigger and more physical up front.

But they’re not committing themselves to an extra year of the previous administration’s attempt to do the same.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Titans won’t be picking up the fifth-year option on 2013 first-rounder Chance Warmack.

Warmack became an immediate starter at right guard as a rookie, and has started every game he’s played. He missed two games last year with a knee injury.

It’s not that he’s played all that poorly, but the option for the 10th overall pick would have been around $11.9 million, and there’s a decent chance they could keep him at a lower number when he becomes a free agent.

The Titans spent this year’s first pick on another offensive lineman, right tackle Jack Conklin.

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Vikings pass on Patterson’s fifth-year option

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 29:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball 50 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings have informed wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson that they won’t exercise the fifth-year option on his contract, ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported Monday.

That means 2016 will be the final season of his rookie contract. The Vikings exercised the 2017 options on their other two 2013 first-round picks, Sharif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes, ahead of Monday’s deadline.

Though the Vikings passing on Patterson’s option is no surprise, he could still have a chance to play his way into the team’s longer-term plans if he can make big plays when called upon. He’s been good in flashes and led the NFL in kick returns last season, but he only caught two passes.

Patterson had four receiving touchdowns as a rookie and has just one since, though he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last year. He has 80 career receptions for 863 yards and finds himself on a more crowded depth chart at wide receiver after the Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round last week.

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Bucs cut kicker Connor Barth, #asexpected after drafting one

Connor+Barth+Carolina+Panthers+v+Tampa+Bay+amA1CE9Y95Gl Getty Images

It was fairly obvious who the Buccaneers were casting their lot with at kicker, when they traded up in the second round to take Roberto Aguayo.

Now comes the housekeeping of getting rid of the rest of them, and at least Connor Barth kept it professional on his way out the door.

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are cutting Barth today, in the #asexpected move.

What wasn’t necessarily #expected was Barth’s classy message to the guy whose arrival meant he was no longer part of the family.

Of course, Barth’s been around long enough to know the itinerant life of a kicker, as this is the third time he’s been cut by the Bucs for a sight-unseen kicker. He did a good enough job last year, hitting 23-of-28 field goals after coming back to replace Kyle Brindza. He had previously been released so they could try Patrick Murray.

So maybe the problem is with the Bucs’ judgement of kickers, rather than Barth’s ability to be one.

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Vikings announce 10 undrafted free agents

Zz1jNGM0OTY2ZWE1NTg5Y2FjMTcxNzg2MmMzNWI3MmU0Yg== AP

The Vikings have capped their draft class by signing a group (for now) consisting of 10 undrafted free agents.

They are: Marshall cornerback Keith Baxter; Penn State tight end Kyle Carter, Minnesota defensive end Theiren Cochran, Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus, Massachusetts receiver Marken Michel, Florida International defensive end Denzell Perine, New Mexico running back Jhurell Presley, Kentucky State cornerback Eric Rawls, Maryland running back Brandon Ross, and Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave.

Stave (pictured), a 6’5″ pocket passer with experience in a pro-style offense, started strong as a sophomore but regressed. He likely will be a camp arm, but with Shaun Hill now 36, the door could be opened to become Teddy Bridgewater’s primary backup.

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Antrel Rolle would like to return to Giants

Antrel Rolle AP

Safety Antrel Rolle is a free agent after being released by the Bears on Sunday and the 33-year-old says that he is “200 percent committed” to continuing his NFL career for a 12th season.

Rolle said on SiriusXM NFL Radio he’s healthy after missing nine games last season and ending the year on injured reserve and sold himself as a veteran leader for any team that might consider signing him. He hopes that the Giants are such a team because he’d like to return to the team he played with for five years before moving to Chicago.

“New York is where my heart is, man,” Rolle said. “I think everyone knows that. I’ve never hidden it. New York is where the heart is. New York is where I feel comfortable. New York is a place where I would love to play. You know, there’s a difference playing for an organization, you know, you’re there to play and to win, and you’re there because that’s where your contract is. And there’s a difference in playing where your heart is. I would absolutely be open to the situation if it presents itself. Obviously it would have to make sense for both [sides]. The New York Giants, I think it would definitely make sense for both myself and the team. But let’s see what happens.”

The Giants didn’t make too much of a push to hold onto Rolle last offseason, but they also didn’t find a good replacement for him at free safety as the year played out. There’s no sure starter at the position this season with third-round pick Darian Thompson joining Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson as in-house options to play next to Landon Collins.

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James Harrison says he’ll play in 2016

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers linebacker James Harrison usually uses his Instagram account to post videos of himself lifting inhuman amounts of weight.

Monday, he used the account to officially announce he’ll return for a 14th season in 2016.

“I’m turning 38 on Wednesday and I’m feeling just like a fine wine,” Harrison wrote. “Getting better with age.”

The Steelers had expected Harrison to return, but Harrison had said he needed to see how his body responded to his offseason workout regimen before making a final decision.

Harrison is a five-time Pro Bowler and was the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He’s under contract for the 2016 season at $1.5 million.

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