I always looked on Eric Steinbach as one of those guys who earned his contract.
He played hard, worked hard, represented the team well and did what was asked of him. He was a professional. A real professional. Then he needed back surgery, which apparently ticketed his way off the Browns. At least for now.
The team released Steinbach after failing to come to an agreement on reducing his $6 million salary. Steinbach made no secret he might like to return.
This move may seem harsh, but when a guy is 31 (a month from 32) and coming off surgery — and the younger guy who took his place (Jason Pinkston) improved as the season went on — then paying the guy coming off surgery $6 million is tough.
That being said, Steinbach was versatile, could pull, could move and next to Joe Thomas looked pretty good – provided he was healthy.
You wonder if the Browns really are better without him competing to come back from surgery in 2012.
And you wonder if the Browns and Steinbach will eventually agree on a lower salary both sides can accept.
Steinbach made reference to returning in a statement he and his agent gave to the National Football Post. If a doubt exists about his class and professionalism, the statement should erase it:
"It has been a good ride in Cleveland and I hope it can continue. I'm proud to say that the offensive line has been a bright spot through the past few seasons. It has been a privilege to play for the city of Cleveland and its rich tradition. Mr. (Randy) Lerner has always treated me with respect and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to work for him and his organization. I will continue to work with the Browns through my agent in hopes of striking a deal that is practical and fair for both sides. In the meantime, I will explore other opportunities. If I do move on, I want to thank the people and fans of Cleveland who have treated my family and I with great support and hospitality. If my time here comes to an end, I want the people of this great city to remember one thing; ‘You stay classy Cleveland!'"