Getting with the North

The AFC North division has been a difficult mountain for the Browns to climb in the 2011 season. Despite being 0-5 thus far, the Browns believe they can show they belong, starting Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

BEREA, Ohio—For the Browns to challenge for the AFC North title, they have to win within the division. The Browns are winless (0-5) in the division, heading into the season finale. If the Browns drop this week's game to the Steelers, they will be 1-11 in the division the past two seasons and 2-16 over the past three years.

There is a chance that the other three teams in the division will make the playoffs this year. After playing all of the teams in the division, Pat Shurmur knows what it is going to take for the Browns to be competitive in the division.

"It's a very physical style that gets played in this division," Shurmur said. "Everything in the NFL is physical, but just the nature of it. Most of these teams are defense driven. They're teams that can play well on offense, but there's a lot of good defense played in our division. That makes for physical style. That also makes for good special teams."

Shurmur has picked up on the intensity of the rivalry with the teams in the division, especially the Steelers.

"The rivalries are deep seeded," he said. "I think that's something you can feel when we play the games. As you go through it, you gain more of an appreciation for it."

Shurmur said the Browns want to play well and beat the Steelers.

"I think anything you do late in the season is what you remember last," Shurmur said. "I think it's important to play well at the end of the year. It's important to play well and win. That's one of the things you want to do if you're going to be a playoff team. You have to play well and win at the end. You've got to stay healthy, you've got to be able to play defense, you've got to be able to score points and all those things.

"At this point because the playoffs are not something that are on our horizon this year, it's about winning that next game," he said. "Then you move on to the offseason, I think that's where it's at."

D'Qwell Jackson said a win can help the young Browns as they head into the off-season.

"You want to leave a lasting impression with guys in the locker room, as well as the coaches," Jackson said. "You battle so hard, week in and week out and all of the close games that we've been in. The last one is important. This is our playoffs in a sense. We want to come out and play our best game so we can have something to talk about in the offseason. It just helps everyone on this football team, whether they were playing well or they weren't, the last impression stretches a mile long. That's our main focus. That's our focus to the young guys in this locker room, just do whatever you can, you've got a couple days left and make the most of it."

Pro Bowler Joe Thomas thinks the Browns can knock off the Steelers.

"I think we're doing a nice job improving every week," Thomas said. "We're playing better football, we're not playing perfect football, but I'm really hoping we continue practicing well the rest of this week and we put together a good showing. I definitely think we can go out and have a real competitive game and definitely give the Steelers our best shot."

Shurmur said he is confident the Browns can play with the rest of the AFC North.

"I like our team," he said. "I think we match up. I go into every game thinking we can win. We've just got to go out and do it. We've got a team that can battle with anybody in this division."

Notebook

McCoy Still not Cleared: Shurmur said again Thursday that QB Colt McCoy (head) hasn't been cleared to practice, but wouldn't rule him out for Sunday's game. WR Jordan Norwood (head), LB Quinton Spears (head) and OL Tony Pashos (illness,ankle)did not practice. RB Peyton Hillis (elbow), WR Josh Cribbs (groin), LB Kaluka Maiava (hand), DL Scott Paxson (hand) and WR Mohaned Massaquoi (foot) were limited.

It was revealed that Spears suffered a concussion in last week's game. He is the 9th player to have suffered a concussion this season with a total of 12 concussions occurring.

RG3: Shurmur said that he plans on watching Baylor QB Robert Griffin III play in the bowl game Thursday night. He also said "Good players fit every offense."


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