Browns News, Notes, and Quotes
--Fifteen players on the roster are new to the team this season. Thirteen of them replace players acquired by Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel over the last two years.
--In a bit of a surprise, cornerback Gary Baxter is on the 53-man roster. He is still recovering from surgery on both patellar tendons, and although his comeback has been remarkable, he is not to the point where he can line up and play. He did not play in a preseason game nor has he practiced in team drills since one day on the scout team Aug. 13.
"He passed his physical and was out there on the field some," Crennel said. "He's a veteran guy and we wanted to give him the opportunity to try and continue his progress and improvement and try and be able to help this team win. That's why I made that decision."
--The last time the Browns played the Steelers is a painful memory for quarterback Derek Anderson. Playing in a seven-degree wind chill last December, Anderson threw one touchdown pass and one interception in his first NFL start. He was 21 of 37 for 276 yards. He should easily have had more than 300 yards passing, but his receivers dropped seven passes.
--Browns RB Jamal Lewis has had his troubles against the Steelers. The last time he rushed for 100 yards against them was on Dec. 28, 2003, when he gained 113 yards in the final game of the season. That game pushed him to 2,066 yards for the season.
--Phil Dawson has been with the Browns longer than any other player on the current team. His 39-yard field goal as time expired gave the Browns a 16-15 victory in Three Rivers Stadium on Nov. 14, 1999. The kick remains one of the highlights of the new era.
--No key offensive player is left from the 36-33 playoff loss to the Steelers on Jan. 5, 2003. The last one to go was WR Dennis Northcutt, whose dropped pass late cost the Browns a chance to ice the game. Northcutt signed with the Jaguars in free agency over the winter.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The Browns have lost to the Steelers seven straight times.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It will be tough. It was tough in the preseason not even playing in the first game. After that, this will be a little easier. I just have to be in the mindset of helping the team any way I can to prepare Charlie and the defense and myself for certain situations." -- Rookie QB Brady Quinn, on not starting in the opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Browns are getting ready with Plan B in case lingering effects from a concussion prevent right tackle Kevin Shaffer from playing against the Steelers. Shaffer was injured Aug. 25 in the preseason game against the Broncos. He sat out the final preseason game against the Bears five days later. He is easing his way back to practice. He worked inside Monday but was outside for practice Wednesday.
"The headaches stopped a couple days ago, but that was from sitting around and doing nothing," Shaffer said on Monday. "The next test is to try to do something and see if the headaches come back."
Shaffer was injured when his helmet was knocked off as he was inadvertently hit from behind by a defender trying to make a tackle. Shaffer was wobbly and needed assistance getting to the sideline.
"If I saw the guy coming, it might have been one thing," Shaffer said. "It felt like my head flew off with the helmet."
Nat Dorsey or Kelly Butler will start if Shaffer does not. Shaffer is making the transition from left to right tackle. After a slow start he started to settle in.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--Tim Carter was declared the third wide receiver ahead of Joshua Cribbs and Travis Wilson. Carter did not catch a pass in the preseason and never caught more than 22 in five years with the Giants.
--The Browns are thin at safety with only Mike Adams behind Brodney Pool and Sean Jones. Gary Baxter could eventually be a safety, but he is weeks away from playing.
--Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand signed a four-year contract extension through 2011. Punter Dave Zastudil and kicker Phil Dawson are signed through 2010.
--LG Eric Steinbach missed the preseason with a knee injury, but he is practicing again and barring any setback will start against the Steelers. He said having played against them eight times in his four years with the Bengals makes up somewhat for the time he missed while injured.
--Willie McGinest is continuing to rehab from back surgery. Antwan Peek will start at left outside linebacker. He played well in the preseason and proved he is more than a pass rusher.
GAME PLAN: It is not over-simplifying things to say the game plan is to tackle Willie Parker on first contact. The last time the Browns and Steelers played, Parker rushed for 232 yards.
The key to controlling Parker is the linebackers must remain in their gaps and not over-pursue. Everything can fall into place if that happens because the pass rush has improved with Peek and Kamerion Wimbley as outside linebackers. The secondary is the strength of the defense.
If the Browns control Parker, they should get the ball in decent field position for the offense. They would like to give the ball to Jamal Lewis behind an improved offensive line to keep the heat off Charlie Frye.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns QB Charlie Frye vs. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. The Browns know the Steelers will blitz. Frye has to know where Polamalu is at all times, because if he loses sight of him, Polamalu is likely to blitz from the blind side or intercept a pass. Frye has the freedom to call an audible depending on where Polamalu is.
Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Steelers LB James Harrison. Thomas was taken with the third overall pick to make sure the quarterback isn't flattened. Frye was sacked five times by the Steelers in a game last season. Thomas cannot be everywhere, but Frye is counting on him to keep Harrison out of his hair.
INJURY IMPACT: The Browns are concerned about punter Dave Zastudil. Zastudil injured his back in practice Monday. He was limited in practice Wednesday and expects to play, but just in case the injury flares up later in the week, five punters were given tryouts on Tuesday. None were signed.
--Safety Mike Adams was limited Wednesday because of a groin injury. The Browns do not have another safety behind Sean Jones and Brodney Pool.
--Linebacker Andra Davis was limited but hopes to be back in the starting lineup Sunday. He missed the preseason with an ankle injury.
--Defensive end Orpheus Roye is working his way back after missing the preseason with a knee injury. He played for the Steelers from 1996-1999 and expects to be ready to play against the Steelers.
--Fullback Lawrence Vickers is slowed by a hamstring injury. His backup, Charles Ali, is a capable blocker, but Vickers is a better receiver.
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