Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers



Week 1: Aug. 12 – at Green Bay Packers – 8 p.m./WEWS

Week 2: Aug. 18 – Atlanta Falcons – 8 p.m./WEWS

Week 3: Aug. 26 – at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8 p.m./CBS

Week 4: Sept. 1 – Chicago Bears – 8 p.m./WEWS



Week 1: Sept. 11 – at Philadelphia Eagles – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 2: Sept. 18 – Baltimore Ravens – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 3: Sept. 25 – at Miami Dolphins – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 4: Oct. 2 – at Washington Redskins – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 5: Oct. 9 – New England Patriots – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 6: Oct. 16 – at Tennessee Titans – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 7: Oct. 23 – at Cincinnati Bengals – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 8: Oct. 30 – New York Jets – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 9: Nov. 6 – Dallas Cowboys – 1 p.m./FOX

Week 10: Nov. 10 – at Baltimore Ravens (Thursday) – 8:25 p.m./NFL Network

Week 11: Nov. 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 12: Nov. 27 – New York Giants – 1 p.m./FOX

Week 13: BYE

Week 14: Dec. 11 – Cincinnati Bengals – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 15: Dec. 18 – at Buffalo Bills – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 16: Dec. 24 – San Diego Chargers (Saturday) – 1 p.m./CBS

Week 17: Jan. 1 – at Pittsburgh Steelers – 1 p.m./CBS


*Home games in bold print*


My quick recap of the Bengals dismantling of the Browns and baptism of Johnny Manziel into the NFL.

Listen Here –

Johnny Manziel Sad 1


Browns Stadium vs SteelersWithout any hesitation I can say that the Cleveland Browns were the far better football team yesterday in all aspects – offense, defense, special teams and coaching. I picked the Browns to win the game because after watching the Steelers over the last 2 weeks I was able to see that they are an old team that lacks talent and should replace both of its coordinators.  The Browns are a young team that has some proven talent and some potential young talent, with a head coach who actually seems to know what he’s doing and really loves his job. Kudos to Mike Pettine and his staff for making this team respectable this early in the season. Now let’s see how they handle prosperity.

The Browns should be favored in their next three games; at Jacksonville, then home against Oakland and Tampa Bay. I expect them to go no worse than (2-1) in those games and be at least (5-3) if not (6-2) after 8 games. Then the schedule gets tough with games at Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina and Baltimore. Plus home games with Houston, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. So you better win the games you’re supposed to win and see if you can play .500 ball the second half of the season. If the Browns can do that, they could be looking at 8, 9 or even 10 wins. If you get to 9 or 10 wins, then you could be talking playoffs.

Having said all that, the Browns were (3-2) after 5 games last year and ended up (4-12). The difference this year I believe is an easier schedule over the next 3 weeks, Brian Hoyer is your QB and not Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell, and a coach who the players actually believe in. Those 3 things should make a huge difference.

alex-mackHowever the Browns are going to have to do it without one of their best and most respected players – Alex Mack. The Pro Bowl center reportedly broke his leg in yesterday’s 31-10 win over the Steelers and is expected to be lost for the rest of the season. John Greco filled in nicely on Sunday against Pittsburgh, but how he performs moving forward will affect the Browns offense in a big way, not to mention Paul McQuistan moving over to take Greco’s spot at left guard. The offensive line has been this team’s MVP’s so far this season. Their depth is going to be tested the rest of the way.

Nobody was harder on the Browns front office for ignoring the wide receiver position in the draft and in free agency than yours truly. Early on it looks like Ray Farmer and the Browns were right and I was wrong. We’ll see if Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin can both continue to make plays and if Miles Austin can stay healthy, but this group with some help from the O-line and Brian Hoyer have performed better than I thought they would. Plus they’ll get All Pro wide out Josh Gordon back for the 11th game of the season at Atlanta, which will have a huge, positive impact on the entire group.

Hats off to Chris Tabor and the special teams.  A few weeks ago they were a laughing stock. The last 2 weeks, they have been solid and made big plays to change the momentum of the game. They were a big reason the Browns won in Tennessee and also against Pittsburgh yesterday. Good decisions, fundlemental play and no mental mistakes go a long way in helping your team win.  Some of those things might not be sexy, but they help you win.

Brian Hoyer Sidelines vs SteelersAnd last but not least, happy 29th birthday to local “Mr. Hero” Brian Hoyer. I used it as a trivia question yesterday at my Browns appearance at Jo Jo’s Sports Bar in Medina and someone knew right away that October 13th was the Browns starting quarterback’s birthday. A year ago I don’t think anyone would have known or cared, but after you lead the biggest road comeback in the history of the NFL and your kicking the Steelers butts all over the field, people start to notice and pay attention. It’s still a small sample size (8 starts), but it’s getting bigger and the results are the same. Hoyer is now (6-2) as the Browns starter and can be a free agent at the end of the season. Your call Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer. Do you believe enough in him to sign him now and maybe save some money, or do you wait until the end of the season and roll the dice? Yes you have Johnny “Jam Boogie” waiting in the wings, but he is nowhere near being ready to be a starting QB in this league. The Hoyer contract situation will be another story line to follow as this season progresses.


On his touchdown pass to TE Jordan Cameron:Brian Hoyer Sidelines vs Steelers

“I think we practiced it once this week, but we actually practiced it a few times the first week we played Pittsburgh.  We thought it would be good, and actually, the look they gave us was the second favorite look we were looking for.  The first was something else.  Jordan did a good job of adjusting and I saw that there was no one in the middle of the field and I just wanted to give him a chance.  He did a great job of going up.  It was a little bit behind him, but he ripped the ball away and ran in for the touchdown.”


On what a win like today does for the team’s belief in each other:

“What’s so great about this group of guys is we don’t care who gets the credit.  We just want to win the game.  I think good teams find different ways to win games.  Whether it’s winning on the last play of the game with a field goal, a touchdown pass, the defense coming out and really shutting their offense out or us hitting a few big plays here or there.  I think we had 17 pass attempts.  We moved the ball well and had big chunk plays.”


On the effectiveness of the run offense:

“You could tell that they were trying to stop the run, especially in our no huddle looks.  The safeties were down and that’s where we got a lot of our big passing plays was off of play-action in the no huddle.  When we have something that’s working really well and the defense tries to take it away, you have got to take advantage of what they try to do.  We hit some big passes behind that.”


On what a win against Pittsburgh means to Browns fans:

“I think the last time the Browns beat the Steelers, I was the backup quarterback for the Steelers that day.  Coming in after what we did last week and knowing what the situation was playing Pittsburgh at home, I knew the crowd would be crazy.  They did a great job.  I think there were a few false starts when they were loud and they stayed the whole time, which was great.  Even though it was 31-3, they stayed and they deserve it.”


On the loss of OL Alex Mack to injury during the game:

“It’s tough.  Other than (OL) Joe Thomas, he has been the anchor of that offensive line long before I got here.  You know how much it means to him.  When you see him get carted off and the whole team comes up to check on him, it shows how much he means to this offense.  In the same sense, we always talk about the ‘next man up’ and we knew coming into this game we had a couple injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Guys are going down during the game and the next guy steps up.  (OL John) Greco shifts over to center and (OL) Paul (McQuistan) comes in and does a great job at guard.  That’s what great teams are made of: every guy on the team being ready to play.  You might be inactive one week and the next week, you have to step up and be ready to play.  They did a great job.  I think Greco gets enough reps at center throughout the week that I wasn’t worried about him snapping the ball or anything.  Usually when a center goes down, the first thing that comes to my head is, ‘Gosh, snap exchange problems.’  I’ve worked enough with John, for the past two years really, that I felt more than confident about that.”


My breakdown of the Browns impressive home victory over their arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at First Energy Stadium.

Brian Hoyer Sidelines vs Steelers

Browns Stadium vs Steelers


Mike Pettine Head Set PhotoOn LB Paul Kruger’s injury:

“He just has an issue with his lower back. (We) just gave him the day. We’ll see if he can go on Sunday.”


On if it happened during practice:



On if it happened during weightlifting:

“(He’s) just having an issue with his back.”


On if he’s glad to have DB Joe Haden back out there today:

“It was good. He got a little bit of work off to the side. He was limited, very limited. That’s a decision we’re going to have to…hopefully he has a good day tomorrow getting some treatment. We’re hopeful. It’s a game time decision, but we hope he’ll be able to go obviously.”


On who will start in that spot if he can’t play:

“It’ll be (DB Justin) Gilbert.”


On if he needs to make a move on the d-line with DLs Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and Phil Taylor all injured:

“I mean, we have (DL) Jacobbi McDaniel. That’s something (GM) Ray (Farmer) and I have to talk about. We need to get a little more of an update from (head athletic trainer) Joe (Sheehan) about ‘Rube’ (Rubin) before we make that decision. We have (DLs) ‘Kitch’ (Ishmaa’ily Kitchen) and John (Hughes) who have been down, so those guys are naturals to be active. We’ll see if we have to go more than that.”


On if Rubin’s injury occurred today:

“No, it was yesterday.”


On what Gilbert showed in practice this week:

“He came out and did his job. He had a great attitude, competed, made some plays. (He) just raised his level of consistency. He still made some mistakes, but I would say it was his best week of practice.”


On what playing at home means to him and what kind of factor the fans can be:

“It’s just something from the day I got the job I was most pleased about. Having been here as a visitor and getting the feel for the Dawg Pound and just the passion, the loyalty – it was just something you admired from a far. Here’s a team that’s not experiencing much success, yet these fans come out in droves and are very supportive. That was proven, as I said the other day, on the road down in Tennessee. It was shocking to say the least to our guys when we pulled up to the hotel and when we got to the stadium. At home they’ve been great for us. Unfortunately, we came up short against Baltimore. The crowd was a huge part, huge part of our win against New Orleans. We’re looking for more of the same. It’s a situation where we tell our guys, ‘We control the volume.’ When we’re making plays and doing good things, that place will be rocking.”


On how coaches learn how players will take coaching by interviewing players before the draft:

“That’s not something you necessarily ask them. You talk to the people that have coached them. You can go as far back to their high school days, but certainly their college coordinator, college position coach, college head coach. You should be able to get that information.”


On if Browns LB Eric Martin would play if Browns LB Paul Kruger was not able to play on Sunday or if it would just be more time for Browns LBs Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard:

“Eric would see more of a role. I think Eric only got two plays against Tennessee, and he had two really good rushes. So, it was already the plan to get him more reps. That’s something that if Krug is limited or can’t go, then he’s going to get those reps anyway.”


On if he saw something in the first half of the Tennessee game that caused Mingo to get fewer reps in the second half:

“No, it’s just we were in a little bit less of that personnel grouping that he was in. He’ll get his reps. Sometimes, the guys that are in certain packages their reps will vary based on what the opponent’s doing, and he was a little bit of a victim of that.”


On how big this division game is:

“That’s an understatement. It’s huge. You can’t fall to 0-3 in the division. As we said, the path to our goal is through the division. This is one – like you said – it’s only one, but this is a pretty big one.”


On if he sees a correlation between the AFC North teams all being .500 or better and all being able to run the ball:

“I just know when you’re looking…I was with (Bengals offensive coordinator) Hue Jackson. I know he has a commitment to want to run the ball. Pittsburgh had talked about wanting to get back to more balance on offense and then, (Ravens offensive coordinator Gary) Kubiak goes to Baltimore. I just think it was a natural thing there, him and (Browns offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) coming from that same system. I think it’s really a product of the mentality change in Pittsburgh of wanting to balance it out and take advantage of the backs that they have, particularly (Steelers RB Le’Veon) Bell. Then, I think the coordinator changes at the other three, I think, firmed that up.”


On if the Browns and Ravens’ commitment to the wide-zone running scheme makes the defenses in the division more familiar to it when going against it:

“I think so because if you’re Pittsburgh or your Cincinnati preparing for a division game, preparing for us or for Baltimore, I would say the pass games are different as I said during Baltimore week, but the run games are very similar. It does water that down a little bit, you’d like to be the only one, but just that’s the way it is.”


On what the message was in the team circle before practice:

“Team building.”


On how he looks at the injuries on defense when going against an offense like Pittsburgh:

“We have to be ready to play. Hopefully we can get the guys that are listed out there. I know we have some guys already listed as out. We talked about next man up. As big of a cliché as it is, it’s very true. I always talked to the coaches don’t be that coach who’s starters are the only ones that are ready. To me, the true measure of a coach is how his backups play when they’re in there, and this week will be a good test to that.”



On the defense needing to create more turnovers:

“Yeah, I think that’s one of the reasons we are where we are. We’ve done a good job protecting it, but we need to do a better job of taking it away. It’s something that we emphasize and just like sacks, in turnovers they come in bunches; you’d like to get on that roll where you’re getting a lot of them but where hoping that will come. Our guys are very mindful of it. They’ve (been) given the percentages of it: if you’re even, the turnover percentage is this plus-one and plus-two. It is pretty much the number one indicator of wins and losses.”


On LB Paul Kruger play:

“He’s played well. I think he was a little bit anxious against Baltimore and tried to do a little more than what he needed to. But other than that, I think that he’s been real solid for us.”


On the pressure upfront provided by Kruger leading to DB Tashaun Gipson’s interception versus New Orleans:

“Yeah that was the play of the game against New Orleans but if he’s not getting sack production he’s at least causing the ball to get out earlier. Teams are aware of him and – he can beat guys on the edge and he can also power them which is a good combination.”


On his confidence in DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen ability:

“To me he’s just a guy that, going back to when we started, fills his grade sheet with pluses. He’s not a flash guy, he’s not going to fill up the stat sheet, have a tone of tackles or sack production or anything like that but he’ll keep the linebackers clean, he’ll be where he’s supposed to be. He’s very dependable when it comes to, when we talk about ‘doing your job and things will happen.’ He’s very dependable that way.”


If you missed my visit with Jeff Phelps and Andy Baskin yesterday on 92.3 The Fan talking Browns/Steelers and the keys for the Browns to get a win, then check out the “Roda Report” podcast right here  « CBS Cleveland

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Brian-Hoyer-AP Photo

Photo courtesy of the AP

On what he learned about Pittsburgh from playing them Week 1:

“Just that we can’t get behind, especially against a good team like that who’s solid. Yeah, we made a run at them and got close, but when you play good teams in the NFL, and most teams are, you can’t get behind because it’s too hard to come back. I think, especially playing at home this week and with what happened to us last week, we know that we have to start fast.”


On how well the offensive line is playing:

“They’re awesome. You sit there and watch film and you see how great they’re playing not just in the pass game, but the run game, too. I think it shows their commitment to the new scheme. It’s not like anything I think they’ve ever had before, and obviously, very different than what we did last year. Those guys did a great job of getting in shape knowing that they were going to have to run. You look at them, and they all look svelte. I think it’s paid off. You can see their athleticism show through, especially in the run game.”


On if he can see the no-huddle happening earlier this week:

“Yeah, definitely. It worked to our advantage last time. I’m sure they’ll be prepared for it so we can’t obviously do it the same way we did last time. I think the tempo helped us. Like I said, I think once you put it on tape, especially a team you played very recently, they know what we’re going to try to do to attack them, but I think there are some things we can do and use the tempo to our advantage.”


On if having two games against the same team this close together can be beneficial:

“Yeah, I think it can. It’s fresh in your memory. You don’t have to go back to a game plan that was 10 weeks ago. I think it also can hurt you. It’s only four games in between, and it was the beginning of the year. They haven’t shown everything that they have. I think, as the season goes on, teams come up with new stuff. Maybe this week, they’ll show us something that we’ve never seen before so I think there are positives and negatives.”


On what he knew about WR Taylor Gabriel before he got here:

“I confused him with the other two guys, (WR Willie) Snead and (WR Jonathan) Krause. They were just kind of like the three guys I wasn’t sure who was who. ‘Gabe’ (Gabriel), he’s really grown on me. The one thing that jumps out about him is this isn’t too big for him. Coming from where he came from – not drafted, a try-out guy – sometimes guys like that can get overwhelmed. I think it just goes to show his work ethic, how (much work) he’s put into making the team, standing out amongst the other rookie receivers, he’s done a great job.”


On not forcing the ball into tight coverage and that being a big reason he’s only had one interception:

“Really I had two, but one got called back. I think that a lot of it goes into preparation. If you have a good feel for your game plan plus what their defense does, you shouldn’t be surprised where their defensive players are on the field in relation to my guys. It’s always been instilled in me when you touch the ball, you hold the fate of the whole team in your hands. It’s something that I don’t take lightly, and obviously you don’t want to throw interceptions. It’s definitely on my mind. I don’t want to give the other team any more chances than they already have so protecting the football is definitely high on my list of priorities.”


On how he’s been able to effortlessly distribute the ball evenly:

“They’re all my favorite. I think really the way that this system is set up is that it’s set up for you to have success if you go through the reads and the progressions and get to the guy who’s open. I think I’ve always done a good job, whether it was here, New England, Arizona or back to Michigan State, of not zeroing in on one guy. I think when you do that, you make the defense really work. You just have to go out and take what they give you. It can be frustrating at times because you want to throw the ball down the field or you want to do certain things, but I think that’s when you throw interceptions. For me, it’s definitely about taking your spots for you where you want to attack them deep. I think all along I’ve said I trust our receiving group, tight end group, skill position groups so much that I just try to read the defense, go through the progression and take what the defense gives me.”


On this being the first time in his career that he’ll be playing a division team for a second time and if he thinks it’ll give him an edge over the first game:

“If anything, it’s playing them not in the season opener. In the season opener, you come in and you’re not really sure what to expect, not just with them but with ourselves with a new system, new coaching staff, new players. I think we’ve grown so much in just four or five weeks. Back to the throw that I hit (WR) Travis (Benjamin) on right before halftime, there’s no way I would have ever been able to do that Week 1. Just the trust level, the timing, those types of things, as you go on through the season, you get more and more reps and more and more looks and you just evolve as an offense. I think we’ve come a long way, and we still have a long way to go. I think as long as you go out and try to continue to build, it definitely benefits you, and I think, talking about playing team for the second time and it being so fresh in our minds, that game plan, I still have it in my book bag. It’s still pretty fresh.”


On what it’s like to have his jersey put in the Pro Football Hall of Fame today:

“It’s pretty cool, especially a kid growing up here going to Canton all the time – field trips, whatever it might be. To have something that I wore on display there is pretty cool, but with my luck, that record will get broken this week (laugther).”


On needing a win in the division:

“No matter how well you play throughout a year, if you don’t win in your division…You look at teams like Arizona last year not making the playoffs when they were 11-5, 10-6. Back to New England, I think it was in ’08 when they were 11-5 and still didn’t make the playoffs. You have to win games in your division. Regardless if it’s Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, these are huge games for us.”


On if the Steelers defense has changed since Week 1:

“Obviously, there’s been some injuries. You get (Steelers LB) James Harrison back, who everybody knows James Harrison. He’s a force to be reckoned with on the field. Yeah, he’s a little bit older, but you watch him on tape and you don’t see much of a drop off.”


On being able to trust the offensive line:

“It allows to play fast and not worry about things like that as long as there’s not a blitz or anything. I know that I’m going to be able to go through my progression and get to the third, fourth guy without (pressure). Sometimes you see pressure, there are stunts, there are linebackers blitzing, it takes a lot of things to go right to be able to get through those progressions. When a team just straight up plays coverage and rushes four, I feel really comfortable getting through my progressions.”


On OL Mitchell Schwartz:

“Mitchell’s great. I think the first thing that stands out to me is how smart he is. He knows how to use this scheme to his advantage. I think, as far as that’s concerned, a lot of it has to go on the quarterback, too, like the sack in the game the other day. That’s all on me. I didn’t make the proper call in the protection. Sometimes, the o-line might get a bad rap for something that the quarterback’s doing, and I think last year’s scheme was a lot of deep drop backs and you’ve got to hold onto the ball. Whereas, I think this year’s scheme plays the way I play. I get the ball out quick, and it takes some of the heat off those guys. They feel more comfortable playing. I think Mitchell’s done a great job just like the rest of them.”


On if the Steelers have compensated for a depleted pass rush recently:

“I think (Steelers LB) Jason Worilds in mind is just as good as any other guy that’s been there. He might be a little smaller, but I think he uses that to his advantage. (Steelers LB) Jarvis Jones is a great player, too. I think in my time being there and now playing against them multiple times, they want to have good, quality players that know the scheme and play it well. If you’re a guy who’s reckless and can’t do it they’re not going to let you play. You might be a great pass rusher, but if you can’t set the edge in the running game, you really don’t do them any good. (Steelers LB) LaMarr Woodley’s gone and guys like that, but I think those guys that are there right now do a great job.”


On some of the most important things he has to keep in mind going against Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme:

“He’s going to force you to throw the ball underneath. They’re going to be great in their zone drops and their man coverage. Their blitzes are going to be, they’re going to hit the gaps the right way, and you just have to be able to willing to take a little here, take a little there. Then when they give you an opportunity, take advantage of it. They’re so well-coached that they’re rarely out of position. It can be frustrating for a quarterback. They’re making you throw underneath all the time. As a quarterback – in my mind at least – I want to get the ball down the field. You’ve just really got to be patient.”


On if TE Jordan Cameron has bene frustrated:

“For me, I have such a great relationship. You see we’re sitting here talking every day. We share a locker. We spend a lot of time together watching film. I think Jordan knows he wants to get the ball more, and trust me I want to get the ball more to him, too. Talking about the system, for me, it’s more important to get it to the right guy than to try to force the ball. People know about Jordan a little bit more this year than they did last year. He is getting a little more attention from the defensive side of the ball, and that’s to be expected. I think it’s a long season. He didn’t play the second half of Pittsburgh. He missed the second game. Baltimore, he really didn’t get the chance to practice. I look back to last week’s game, the ball at the goal line doesn’t get batted it’s a touchdown. Another play, if we block correctly, maybe he turns up the sideline and gets a touchdown. He’s just a few plays away from really having a breakout, and the couple catches he did have were huge plays. The second down where I hit him across the middle, that gets a first down to get us rolling. Then, the one on the sideline when I had let that ball go, it was kind of a ‘who’s going to go get it,’ and Jordan went up strong and got it. I think the injury definitely held him back a little bit, but now you see him out there practicing. He’s going full-go, and I think he’s primed to have a big game here.”


On if an offensive player getting more attention opens up other things for the offense:

“Yeah, that’s when we talk about going through progression. Sometimes, they might tilt a certain coverage to certain players, and you can see that frees up other people.”


Opening statement:Mike Pettine Head Set Photo

“Pittsburgh week – not much to say to our guys, as far as motivation, a division game. We all know what our division record is at this point. We need to get ourselves a win in the division. The second time around, you don’t want to get in the habit of overthinking it, too. That game was so recent that the teams haven’t really changed. I know they lost some guys defensively, but offensively, they’re very similar to what they were. A couple of the guys they had out are getting back. It’s a big challenge, and we’re hopeful that the Dawg Pound we know will be there for us. Even going back to Sunday – I think I was remiss in mentioning afterwards – that was shocking, but in a positive way, just how well our fans traveled. We had a huge group of fans waiting for us at the hotel. There were so many of them at the game and they were really loud at the end of the game. That was impressive. I know our guys appreciate it. We’re looking forward to getting back home and feeding off their energy and getting a victory. Our challenge still remains on defense to get some things cleaned up. We’ve talked about consistency, and that’s the key word. We’ve shown, at times, that we can be dominant, and we’ve shown, at times, that we can be where we are ranked, among the worst in the league. We’re not hitting the panic button. We know that the issues are very detail-oriented. We need to get them cleaned up, get them fixed so we can move forward and be the defense that we know we can be.

“On the injury front, I know it was out this morning: (DL) Phil (Taylor)’s going to miss some time, had a knee scope this morning. I think that best source for Browns news lately has become Phil Taylor’s Instagram, right next to our website. He’ll be shut down for a couple weeks. We’ll know a little bit in a few days kind of how that went as the beginning of his recovery starts. At this point, there’s really no more news on that. (DL) Billy Winn won’t practice today with a quad. Then, (DB) Joe (Haden)’s hip, we’re not quite sure. There is some soreness in it. He went through the walkthrough this morning. I think we’ll be very cautious with it. You get to the point with certain guys where you feel good about their practice habits and where they are. You get them into Sunday mode. We’ll keep a very close eye on that and update you guys as the week goes on.”

On who will start in Taylor’s spot:

“It depends on what grouping we’re in. We can be out there with Des (DL Desmond Bryant). We’ll probably have, if Billy’s down, that’s the one position where we felt we did have some depth. (DL) John Hughes who was inactive, will be active. ‘Kitch’ (DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen) will likely be up. If I had to say who will replace Phil, it could be either one of those two. In run situations, it will likely be Kitch.”

 On if Hughes was a healthy scratch from the lineup against the Titans:

“He was. It was just a numbers deal. We wanted to go with the fourth outside linebacker instead of the extra d-lineman.”

 On if DBs K’Waun Williams or Justin Gilbert will be getting extra reps in practice in place of Haden:

“K’Waun’s more of a slot. It’ll be on Justin and ‘Nelly’ (DB Robert Nelson) will get a lot of the reps while Joe’s out.”

On his confidence level with the secondary:

“I’m not down on that group because they want to get it right. It’s a matter of going out there and putting the work in. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s going out there, putting in the work. We’ve shown that we can do it. If it was a situation where it was just a matter of what we were doing, we just couldn’t get it right and can’t make a play – that’s not the case. There are times we get it done, times we don’t. We need to – just the consistency thing that I’ve talked about – take a lot of those minuses and push them into the plus category.”

On the defense giving up an average of 7.3 yards on first down:

“We’re inconsistent on first down because it’s not like every first down is seven yards. You even look at the run defense. I thought we were playing pretty well against the run until they busted the 40-yarder on the jet sweep. You look at just the raw number and the average is what it is, but it’s the consistency thing. When we’re playing well for nine plays, and then the 10th one we give up a huge chunk, that’s a problem. You feel you’re much closer to getting it fixed as opposed to five a play, six a play, seven a play. Then, the average ends up being about the same. If we can eliminate the big ones, we feel we’ll be much closer to where we want to be.”

On how Williams and Nelson compare as cornerbacks:

“K’Waun’s more inside, more of a nickel. Nelly has played nickel, but he’s more of an outside corner.”

On Nelson and Williams playing against the Steelers as two undrafted rookies:

“It doesn’t matter to us how we acquire guys. We’re going to put guys out there that give us the best chance to win, and if they have to play we’re confident that they’ll be prepared. K’Waun – other than the early play in the game where he backed up too far in the red zone, and then giving too much cushion, gave up a touchdown – for the rest of the game, he was rock solid, made some huge plays, made the sack and then the tackle to end the game right there on the last one. We don’t get wrapped up into that. If they have to play, they have to play. I talked to the team today just about the whole theory of the phrase ‘next man up’, what it means and why it’s so prevalent in the league. Everybody talks about it because it’s true. You sometimes, especially if you’re a guy who’s on the practice squad or the perceived bottom of the roster and you’re not playing, you start to get into the routine. You get comfortable. We make sure we do it as a staff, but it’s also on them to make sure that I prepare myself to be a starter. That’s why we’re confident because those guys have been doing that, and when they get asked to do it, they’re ready to go. Injuries are a part of the league, and it happens. There are no excuses on Sundays.”

On if Nelson and Williams are outworking Gilbert:

“I wouldn’t say they’re outworking him. Justin’s been inconsistent. That’s a problem. Really to compare K’Waun to him, it’s like comparing a guard to a tackle. He’s an inside corner; Justin’s outside. He’s had his issues, and he knows that he’s been picked on when he’s in there. There are a lot of things that we need to get right with Justin, but we’re confident that we’re going to do it. Nobody’s bailing on him, and if he’s getting some tough love in the DB room so be it. We all recognize the talent, and he showed for long stretches he can do it. Then, he has his breakdowns. We just have to eliminate those, and that’s really indicative of why we are where we are as a defense.”

On if Gilbert thinks he already knows what to do:

“No, that’s not the case at all. I just think when you get into a game situation that sometimes young guys that haven’t had an extreme amount of reps in a system to get a coach and get it ingrained they fall back on old habits. That can tend to get you in trouble.”

On if Gilbert’s issues have to do with his attitude:

“It’s not an attitude thing at all, no.”

On if Gilbert has been addressing those issues behind the scenes:

“Every day.”

On if he has warmed up to the idea of using Gilbert as a punt returner:

“No, because we just feel that the options that we have are better. We want him to focus still on…that’s pulling focus away from getting him right as a corner. That was briefly discussed, but that’s not a direction that we’re going to go.”

On if there is a mental component to losing consistently to a QB like Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and how to get over that:

“There could be. To me, it’s not you dealing with a quarterback. You’re just dealing with the team in general. You just look at the lack of success against Pittsburgh. That’s what we talked about that first week, but now that we’re into the season and we’re rolling, we’re onto the next one. That’s our next opponent. I don’t think you get caught up in the history at that point. We know how we played them the first game. The improvement that we can make, the things that we can continue to do well and the matchups and, ‘Hey, that’s who I played against’ – that’s all this game comes down to. I don’t think you can get tied up in it because I think it can only be a negative. I think it’s critical for our guys to—you get to the point where you use the cliché, ‘Just treat these guys as they are nameless and faceless.’ We’re more competing against our standards than we are anybody else in particular.”

On if he mentioned Brady’s success to the Bills defense last season:

“We talked about it briefly, but not to the extent that we did here. It was less just talking about Ben, specifically. It was more just the two teams, the franchises.”

On if he has a better understanding at this point in the season why the Browns came out like they did against Pittsburgh in Week 1:    

“Obviously, we don’t because we came out that way against Tennessee. Still searching for it, but it’s something that we’ll look to get it corrected. That’s something that we’ve discussed. We’ve discussed amongst ourselves, as coaches. We’ve discussed it with the players because we know we’re close. If we can increase our level of consistency, we can very quickly get to where we want to be. That just doesn’t happen, and we’ve got to find the answers and we’ve got to get it corrected.”

On how much of a necessity it is that the defense straightens itself out this week against Roethlisberger and Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell:

“Again, I don’t think at this point for us defensively it matters who the opponent is. I think we play quality players every week. I think when guys just take it upon themselves to, ‘Hey, do my job. Get a plus on the grade sheet,’ and then the cumulative effect of that means we’ll have a positive result. That’s the important thing, I think, because when you get too wrapped up into who you’re playing, to me, I think we need to be much more introspective defensively. Just line up, do my job and trust that the guys around me are going to go theirs.”

On Gilbert and LB Barkevious Mingo getting off to slow starts and examples of guys that he’s coached that started slow and then came on strong:

“I think there are guys that progress at all different levels. I don’t know if I have any specific that just jump to mind, but it’s important for those guys to know that No. 1, we have their back. They wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe in them, but at the same time, we have to do what’s best for the Browns. We have to do what’s best for the team and get guys out there that are going to maximize our chances to be successful. At the same time, they still have to play. I just think it’s important that they know that nobody’s giving up on them, and they’ve just got to keep playing. That’s the key thing. When you’re in a slump, you’ve got to play your way out of it.”

On how the Browns came upon Williams from Pittsburgh:

“(Secondary coach) Jeff Hafley coached him there. There were some other teams interested in him after the draft. The Steelers were one because the Steelers and Pitt share a building, share practice fields so they were very well aware of him. Jeff was there, and it was his position coach. He essentially recruited him after the draft.”

On if Haden was injured after a hit to his hip:

“I don’t know exactly how the injury occurred, but he didn’t miss a play. He went in; they looked at it. Then, he came right back out and went right from the tunnel straight onto the field.”

On if he expects Haden to be ready Sunday:

“I’m cautiously optimistic.”

On if Titans QB Jake Locker escaping the pocket is easy to fix in meeting rooms going up against Roethlisberger this week:

“It is easier said than done. I think their scramble, though, to compare the two is they’re very different. Locker is faster and looks more to run first, throw it second, whereas Ben constantly has his eyes downfield. They’ve perfected that to an art in Pittsburgh. Their receivers, they run the first route, the ball’s not there, he makes the first guy miss, gets out of the pocket and then they all break it off. You don’t have to go any further than Week 1, when we had a free runner, missed him, got out of the pocket and threw a perfect pass to (Steelers WR Antonio) Brown in the corner of the end zone.”

On if he thinks CBs have a difficult time adjusting to the officials being stricter on no-contact rules:

“I can’t speak for the league. I think our guys are probably better than most, as far as adjusting. I don’t know where the numbers are and where we are as being penalized, but it’s an educational thing, as well. I don’t like to discuss the details of the report that we send in, but we’ll ask questions and send them in. It’s not like, ‘Hey, we think you missed this call.’ It’s, ‘Please educate us. How can we coach our guys better?’ There’s been real good interaction. (NFL vice president of officiating) Dean Blandino put out a video every week to staffs and the first five, six minutes of it every week are usually about secondary play, plays that are, ‘Hey, this should be called. This shouldn’t be called.’ It’s good education for all of us, and I think as the year goes on it’ll settle down.”

On if the way the secondary defends guys has changed because of the league’s rule changes:

“I don’t see any difference based on the rule changes.”

On if he got any clarification on DB Joe Haden’s pass interference call:

“I did.”

On if it made sense:

“It made sense. That’s a good answer.”

On not only going no-huddle in the second half against Tennessee but going faster than average, and how comfortable that is for QB Brian Hoyer and how much he can use that in the first half to spark production:

“We talked about this after Week 1 – how that wasn’t going to be our lifestyle – but I think that’s a great tool to have in the toolbox, to be able to go fast. When we’ve fallen behind, I think we’ve still been committed to the run because I think when you go that fast, you can still run the ball. We’ve proven that now twice. You can still run the ball and get back into a game. The average number of possessions, you can go up-tempo and still get back into it, especially if that’s your thing. It’s important for us to have it, and we can jump in and out of it. It’s tough on us. I can’t say it isn’t. It is tough on us, the physical part of it, but I think it’s much tougher on a defense. You’ll get some watered-down calls. You can catch them in some base groupings, and you can get them tired.”

On what the mindset of the defense is right now and what he wants the mindset to be as it gets closer to Sunday:

“The mindset is I think they’re getting a little pissed off. I think they’re tired of hearing it, but they know it’s on them. They’ve got to go out and play. They know as a unit that they’re better than where we are statistically and better than what we’ve put on tape. It’s a prideful group. I’ve said that – prideful, competitive. It’s not a happy group. That’ll show up on the practice field. It already did in the meetings and in the walkthrough. I’ll be surprised if we don’t make strides in the right direction.”

On what makes defending the wide zone so difficult and if part of it is that you don’t see it a lot throughout the course of the season:

“I think that’s part of it – the commitment to the zone-scheme that we have. I think most teams have some element of it, but because it’s our lifestyle, I think we’re really good at it. I think that’s difficult to prepare for in an opponent, especially if you don’t have the players to match that scheme. You might have tight ends that are more mauler types or even offensive linemen that are more built for gap-scheme and downhill and down blocks. The athleticism required in the zone-scheme, you might be able to practice those blocks, but they’re not going to be at the speed, the tempo where our guys can get on top of you.”

On if Baltimore has a similar commitment level to it and the Browns:

“Similar. They are similar.”

On why he thinks DB Buster Skrine struggled on Sunday and if he played better in the first three weeks:

“I don’t really have an explanation for that. Count him in with those other guys where it’s ultra-important to him. He’s passionate. When we talk about ‘Play like a Brown,’ he’s that guy. You don’t need to get on him about it because he’s as upset as anybody else is about it. I know the double-move is the one for sure that he’d want to have back, but as with the rest of the defense, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back.”

On if he’s ever been on a team that had this much contribution from rookie free-agents:

“I doubt it. Going back to the Baltimore days, we had a bunch of guys. I don’t know if it was ever both sides of the ball, this big of a contribution. That’s a credit to them, and it’s a credit to our personnel staff that kind of put them on our radar and got them in here. As I said before, we’re going to coach everybody the same once there in here. If a guy is worthy of making the 53 and playing and being active on game day and playing then he’s going to be out there. I think it’s a function of the personnel staff, the coaching staff and the guys themselves. (If) you get a guy that has that ability, he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder for not being drafted and want to prove a point.”


1) STOP THE RUN – If you can halt the Steelers ground attack and force them to be one dimensional, their offensive line does not pass block well and you can get to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for sacks and potential turnovers. However, that pressure must come from the outside, forcing “Big Ben” to stay in the pocket so he can’t get to the edges, extending the play to throw downfield for long gains and scores. But all this starts by keeping Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount bottled up. This is easier said than done, especially since the Browns rank 30th out of 32 teams against the run this season, giving up 152.5 yards per game and the Steelers are 7th in the league in rushing at 137.2 yards per game.

2) DOUBLE TEAM ANTONIO BROWN – Give Joe Haden help in covering Brown. Bring a safety over and take your chances with one-on-one coverage elsewhere. In other words, make a receiver not named Antonio Brown beat you. No one has emerged to become that true, viable, second receiver threat yet for Pittsburgh. In fact, Brown is the only Steelers WR to reach the end zone this season.

Joe Haden Mini Camp 2014

3) BALANCE ON OFFENSE – Against Tennessee the Browns ran the ball 36 times and threw it 37 times. A similar game plan this week would be beneficial against a Steelers defense that is at best, AVERAGE. At times Pittsburgh has had trouble stopping the run and with the Browns strength being their offensive line and three capable running backs led by Ben Tate, using the run to set up the pass with play action, could result in chunks of yards on the ground, and then big scoring plays through the air against a very poor Steelers secondary. But when that big play is there, they must hit on it, score touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals because of missed opportunities.

4) SPECIAL TEAMS NEED TO BE SPECIAL – The Browns must contain Antonio Brown on punt returns. No more long returns and karate kicks to the face of Spencer Lanning. The Browns must win the field position battle and make sure that whoever is returning punts and kicks doesn’t turn the ball over. The Browns were very lucky last week that a penalty against the Titans nullified a fumbled punt return by Travis Benjamin. Also snaps, extra points and field goals all must be handled flawlessly by snapper, holder and kicker, so no kicks are missed and points are left on the field.

Antonio Brown Kicks Spencer Lanning In The Face

5) MAKE THE STEELERS LINEBACKERS COVER – In Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme, he expects to get sacks or pressure on the quarterback from his linebackers. In the past that was no problem because Pittsburgh had Pro Bowl caliber linebackers. These Steelers linebackers are not that good. They’re having trouble getting to the quarterback and they have trouble covering tight ends and running backs on wheel routes out of the backfield. So make them cover and keep them off of Brian Hoyer, and the “Blitzburgh” defense is very susceptible to the big play and yielding points.

6) START AND FINISH STRONG – The Browns can ill afford to spot Pittsburgh a huge lead again because this time Pittsburgh may not take their foot off the gas like they did last time. Getting an early lead would be great for the team’s confidence and might put doubt in the minds of some of the young Steelers players, but at a minimum, keep the game even or close going into the fourth quarter and see if Brian Hoyer can work some more late game magic and help the “Kardiac Kids 2.0” come away with an important home, divisional win against their arch rivals.

Brian Hoyer TD Signal vs Ravens