Browns-Steelers: Personnel and Strategy

TheInsiders discuss some of the match-ups to watch on Sunday...

The only roster change came on the practice squad. The Browns signed DL Nick Eason, a fourth-round pick by Denver in 2003, and waived OL Lance Nimmo.

Chris Crocker, normally the nickel cornerback, saw more time at safety, replacing Earl Little for a couple of possessions against Washington. Butch Davis downplayed the move, saying Crocker was used because the Browns were responding to a specific personnel package by the Redskins.

  • RT Ryan Tucker did not practice Wednesday because of a torn quadriceps muscle. He is listed as questionable, but it seems unlikely the Browns will risk a re-injury by playing him this week.
  • DT Gerard Warren did not practice Wednesday because of a strained pectoral muscle. He is listed as questionable.
  • LB Barry Gardner has a groin pull. He is listed as questionable. He did practice Wednesday.
  • LB Kevin Bentley has a quadriceps injury and did not practice Wednesday. He is listed as questionable.
  • LT Ross Verba practiced Wednesday despite a calf injury. He is listed as probable.

GAME PLAN: The Browns had trouble attacking Baltimore's 3-4 defense in the opener, and Pittsburgh's will also pose problems. Cleveland's offensive linemen must work in sync, something they haven't always done this year. Pittsburgh has proven to be an opportunistic defense, so Jeff Garcia must take extra care of the ball. On defense, the Browns won't have to worry about as much razzle-dazzle now that Mike Mularkey is in Buffalo. But Duce Staley is a tough runner, and the Browns will focus on him in hopes of forcing rookie Ben Roethlisberger to have to take some chances. Look for the Browns to try to put pressure on Roethlisberger, in part because the Steelers are very thin behind him at quarterback.


  • Browns C Jeff Faine against Steelers NT Kim von Oelhoffen. Faine, Cleveland's first-round pick in 2003, believes he's playing better than he ever has. He'll face a tough challenge in the underrate von Oelhoffen. If the Browns are to establish a running game, Faine must control von Oelhoffen.
  • Browns MLB Andra Davis against Steelers RB Duce Staley. After a breakout 2003 season, Davis has not made as big a splash this year. That may be because the defense as a hole is playing better. But there's little doubt that Davis must come up big if the Browns are to slow Staley. Pittsburgh's solid offensive line will probably neutralize Cleveland's line, leaving Davis as the primary tackler on runs between the tackle.

INJURY IMPACT: LG Paul Zukauskas is not on the injury report this week, but he has been hobbled by a sprained knee and might be replaced by Enoch DeMar. The two battled for the starting job during the preseason, with Zukauskas taking over after DeMar played poorly in the preseason opener against Tennessee.

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