Reuben Droughns had to sit out the game against the Steelers because of a foot injury. He hopes to be back in action Sunday when the Browns host the Bengals in a rematch of a game played the second week of the season.
The Browns need Droughns healthy. Jason Wright started against the Steelers and rushed for 74 yards on 18 carries. He showed fresh burst, but if Droughns is ready they want him in the lineup against Cincinnati. A fumble by Wright in the third quarter was costly in a 24-20 loss. It was the 12th time in 13 games the Steelers beat the Browns. After throwing three interceptions and being held to 48 yards passing in the first three quarters Ben Roethlisberger passed for 224 yards in the fourth quarter.
"It's very frustrating to have a nagging injury," Droughns said. "It's not fun. You don't want to make it seem like you're trying to run away from a game."
Droughns said he hurt his foot late in the second quarter in Atlanta. He said the pain is on both sides and the bottom.
For Droughns, the injury will make it difficult to get back on the pace he set last year, when he averaged four yards a carry while rushing for 1,232 yards. He is averaging 3.1 yards a carry this year.
No one seems to know exactly why the run offense is so sluggish. Droughns is upset about it and so are his offensive linemen. Unless the Browns totally underestimated the worth of Jeff Faine, the center traded to the Saints for a second-round draft choice, there has to be something deeper. Droughns bristles at the notion he was playing for a new contract last year and now that he has a new deal he could relax a little.
"I want to prove to everybody I deserve the contract," Droughns said. "It's not that I'm (complacent) with a new contract. I'm not satisfied with the running game.
"It's a challenge to me, the fullback, the offensive line and the receivers blocking downfield. It's something we have to get better at in these last seven games."
The Bengals did not sack Charlie Frye in the game played Sept. 17 in Cincinnati, but his passer rating was just 58.1, and that was largely because the Browns had so many problems running. As a team, they averaged 2.9 yards a carry on 20 carries, and even that was inflated because Dennis Northcutt rushed for 16 yards on one play.
Right tackle Ryan Tucker predicts the run offense will get better in the last six games. Tucker said the Browns are less predictable with Jeff Davidson calling plays.
"We have to learn how to put teams away," Tucker said. "We have to play mistake-free football. That's what bridges the gap from the mediocre to the great team."