Browns-Steelers: Locker Room Notes

Wherein Josh Cribbs is again the star, missed tackles explained, stake planes broken, and much more...

PITTSBURGH – No matter how bad it gets for the Browns, Joshua Cribbs makes them better.

He was the team's top rusher on Sunday with 45 yards in just six carries while running out of the Wildcat offense. But more importantly – much more importantly – he showed his skills as the best returner in Browns history and the best overall in the NFL today by bringing back a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown with just over four minutes left in the second quarter. It was one of the few bright spots for the Browns in a 27-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

For Cribbs, it was his second special teams return for a TD this year, as he also brought back a punt 67 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener.

With Sunday's TD return, he took sole possession as the Browns' all-time leader in kick return scores. Cribbs has eight career kick return TDs (six on kickoffs), including three all-time kickoff return scores against the Steelers.

Cribbs passed Eric Metcalf, who had seven career TD returns from 1989-94.

It was Cribbs' first kickoff return for a touchdown since a 92-yarder against Baltimore last Nov. 2. He has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in every season of his five-year career.

With Cribbs' 26-yard punt return in the first quarter, he became the 20th player in NFL history to amass 7,000 career return yards, including 6,161 on kickoffs and 975 on punts.

"I went out and did my thing and did the best I could, but it was the blocking of the guys in this locker room," Cribbs said of his TD on Sunday.

Cribbs was the big story leading into the game. He wants his contract re-worked, and while it was rumored he is frustrated with the situation and wants to be traded, he said on Friday that he is happy in Cleveland and would like to finish his career with the team. Browns head coach Eric Mangini said earlier in the day that he has no plans to move Cribbs.

"He's dynamic," Mangini said after the game. "He's special with the ball in his hands."

That's particularly the case considering the inability of the Browns offense to score points. Cribbs' returns has produced exactly one-third of the Browns' six TDs this year.


HEALTH UPDATE: The Browns' chances to win on Sunday decreased significantly even before the game started when outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who has been playing well and leads the team with five sacks, was sent home with the flu. He is one of two difference makers on the defense. "Kamerion would have helped us, but he wasn't there," Mangini said. "With Kamerion out, we had to play Alex Hall and Jason Trusnik more than we would have expected to." Without Wimbley to provide a pass rush, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went over 400 yards passing for the second time in his career, getting 417 on 23-of-35 passing. He had two TDs and one interception for a 113.6 quarterback rating. …

The other difference maker on defense, nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who was also "under the weather," according to Mangini, was taken out of the game late after being assessed a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct during a TV timeout. When's the last time you saw a player assessed a penalty for anything while the nation was watching some beer or car commercial? Rogers and Steelers right tackle Willie Colon were jawing at each other. In fact, Colon came into the Browns huddle to do it. The official told them to cool it, which Colon did. But Rogers kept at it, and when he said the big bad word to Colon, he got flagged and Mangini took him out of the game.

Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson left with a shoulder injury and did not return. He was replaced by rookie Kaluka Maiava. … Tight end Steve Heiden was de-activated before the game, probably because the knee he had surgically repaired late last season is acting up again. With Heiden, a good blocker out, the Browns used guard/center Hank Fraley at tight end for extra blocking.


SAY WHAT?: The Browns, especially the defensive backs, did a poor job of tackling against the Steelers, but cornerback Brandon McDonald said the team overall did a pretty good job of tackling. "As a team, you're going to miss tackles," he said. "Every team misses tackles. That's a fact."


SAY WHAT?, PART TWO: Roethlisberger burrowed for a first down on a fourth-and-inches play late in the second quarter. The measurement made it appear, though, that he was stopped short of a first down, and the measurement, especially according to the Browns, seemed to verify that. Referee Walt Anderson explained his decision afterward by saying, "The ball has to penetrate the plane of the stake. It touched the plane of the stake, because that's what I was looking at." Mangini said of his conversation with Anderson, "He said that with the angle he had, it broke the plane. So it broke the plane." Added defensive end Robaire Smith of the measurement, which allowed the Steelers to kick a field goal and take a 17-7 halftime lead, "It was big, don't get me wrong. It is what it is. It's over, and we can't do anything about it."


STREAKY:  The Steelers beat the Browns for the 12th straight time and 18th time in the last 19 games. "I don't care if it's 30 in a row," Browns guard Eric Steinbach said. "This is a new team and a new coaching staff." But the same ol' results.


QUOTABLE: "I told him Thursday, ‘If it's not there, don't try to squeeze it in.' " – Mangini on Browns Derek Anderson when asked about the quarterback's interception at the Pittsburgh one-yard line late in the game, basically sealing Cleveland's fate.

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