BEREA - William Green looks back to the bye week as a pivotal point in his sudden emergence as a featured running back.
Perhaps as important is that Green credits the confidence his teammates and coach Butch Davis had in him.
"The coaches and the offensive linemen never gave up on me," Green said. "I remember a time when I was struggling, and Butch came to me and said, 'One day you're going to help us get to a Super Bowl.' At that time I thought, 'Wow, I'm just trying to get on the field right now, let alone getting to a Super Bowl.' He never gave up on me, even when things were going bad."
Green rushed for just 161 yards in the first nine games, but something clicked after the bye. Given the starting assignment against Cincinnati in place of the injured Jamel White, Green responded by rushing for 96 yards on 25 carries.
From then on, Green looked as comfortable in the backfield. He rushed for 726 yards in the last seven games to provide the key element needed to lead Cleveland to a 9-7 record and an AFC wild-card playoff spot.
Davis used the bye week as a time to re-evaluate the direction the team needed to take in the final seven weeks. The plan offensively was to make a commitment to the ground game, and Green was going to be the focal point.
"The bye week gave us the chance force feed the situation and say, 'Hey, we're going to sink or swim with this situation,' " Davis said. "But none of that happens for anyone on this team until they're willing to submit to coaching and say, 'Hey, I don't have all the answers.'
"Sometimes when you're a high-priced free agent or a high-priced rookie, or you think your contract outweighs your performance, you have to buy into the idea that we're playing against a lot of talented players. You need to study film, and you need to watch and learn. If a guy is willing to do that, then the sky is the limit."
Davis was cautious in his approach with Green. Although intrigued by the idea of starting Green earlier in the season, Davis knew there were some risks.
"There probably would have been some pain involved in it," Davis said. "You could have done two or three detrimental things. One is you could have fractured his confidence.
"If we were a 2-14 team, we would have stuck him in there and stuck with him come hell or high water. But here's a team that's trying to get to the playoffs. You can't leave it on the field and jeopardize his entire future."
ALL SET: The way things have gone this season, backup quarterback Josh Booty could find his way into the lineup. If that happens, he feels he's mentally ready for the challenge.
"I've done nothing but scout team and a couple team (drills) here and there, but I'm watching the team so close it's almost like being in there," Booty said. "Every snap I'm watching, so I know pretty much what's going on."
CAST YOUR VOTE: Green is one of five finalists for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors. Fans can cast a vote via the NFL.com website. Other finalists are Dallas receiver Antonio Bryant, Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney, Denver running back Clinton Portis and New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.
GETTING BETTER: Kevin Bentley's mother had quadruple heart bypass surgery Tuesday. She suffered a mild heart attack last weekend. Kevin said the surgery went well and that his mother is resting comfortably.
TOUGH WEEK: Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon admits that it was difficult keeping his mind on football during last Sunday's game against Atlanta. McCutcheon's wife Shawna went into labor the day of the game. She delivered a son, Dyson, who weighed in at six pounds, seven ounces.
"I felt like I was focused before the game, but I can honestly say I was excited about the birth," McCutcheon said. "It was exciting and a rough weekend for me."
INJURY REPORT: Other than Tim Couch being out, the Browns didn't list one player on their injury report.
Listed as questionable for the Steelers are inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (ankle) and cornerback Chad Scott (hand). Listed as probable are running back Jerome Bettis (knee) and inside linebacker James Farrior (shoulder).