A bone bruise on his right wrist will likely keep starting quarterback Charlie Frye on the sideline Thursday night in Heinz Field, and that means Browns backup Derek Anderson will likely make his first NFL start against a Steelers' team that has beaten the Browns 12 times in the last 13 meetings.
Anderson was the hero of the Browns' come from behind 31-28 victory over the Chiefs Sunday. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 171 yards, threw two touchdown passes and led the overtime drive resulting in a field goal by Phil Dawson.
Anderson had taken only one other snap this season, handing off to Reuben Droughns in the Denver game while Frye recovered from a concussion. Frye returned on the next play.
Anderson looked composed against the Chiefs. He did not scramble the instant he took the snap as Frye sometimes does. When he threw the ball he threw a rope. He got out of trouble twice with shovel passes.
The challenge for Anderson is the Steelers play much more aggressively on defense. Anderson did not have to worry about Kansas City blitzing. The Chiefs did not sack Frye in the first half and sacked Anderson only once.
By contrast, the Steelers sacked Frye a total of 13 times in the last two games. They beat the Browns 41-0 on Christmas Eve and 24-20 last month. In that November game the Browns scored on a 57-yard interception return by Daven Holly and 92-yard kick return by Joshua Cribbs, but they did not score on offense.
"He'll see the Pittsburgh-style defense and they are a blitz - zone team," coach Romeo Crennel said. "They are not going to change that because of who the quarterback is. They might do more of it considering who the quarterback is."
Anderson has the strongest arm among the Browns quarterbacks. He does not have Frye's mobility, but in some cases Frye's mobility has been a detriment because he bails out of the pocket too quickly and then what protection he has breaks down. Frye has been sacked 43 times but ironically he was not sacked when he was injured; he was hit after throwing a pass and was hurt as he braced himself when he fell.
Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said Anderson is 'arrogant' in a positive sort of way because when he makes a mistake he does not get down on himself. Anderson threw an interception late in the fourth quarter in the Chiefs game. No harm was done. The game-winning field goal was scored on the Browns first overtime possession.
"It will be a challenge, but I think having Charlie will help him because he went through it last year," Crennel said. "Charlie can explain to him about what to look for and some keys to their coverage schemes. Derek probably won't be perfect, but he might have a little advantage because of Charlie."
Frye has made 17 straight starts dating back to the 11th game of 2005.
Running back Reuben Droughns missed the first Steelers game with a foot injury. He was healthy when the Browns played Cincinnati the next week, but he was benched in favor of Jason Wright.
The demotion was a wake-up call for the 1,000-yard rusher just a year ago. He ran hard against the Chiefs when he got his starting job back. His 70 yards on 14 carries produced a season-high 5.0-yard average. He also five passes, another season high, for 48 yards.
The time Droughns missed opened up opportunities for Wright. The Browns have evolved into a two-back offense. Wright is quicker and shiftier than Droughns, but he does not have Droughns' power. At the beginning of the season, rookie Jerome Harrison was slated as the change of pace back. Wright has taken over that job. He blocks better than Harrison.
QB Charlie Frye did not practice Tuesday. He wore sweats and watched. He is wearing a brace and splint on his bruised right wrist.
TE Kellen Winslow did not practice. He rested his knee as he usually does on Wednesday. Since it is a short week, Winslow will not practice before the game.
DE Orpheus Roye missed practice because of a knee injury. The injury kept him out of the Kansas City game.
LB Willie McGinest is playing with an on-going pectoral injury. Despite that he made 12 tackles last week.