Notebook: Stopping Winslow the key

The Cleveland Browns expect to be without running back Reuben Droughns Sunday afternoon, and his backup, Jason Wright, is a former seventh-round draft pick who's rushed for only 39 yards on 18 carries this season.

That puts the pressure on the Browns' passing game, and if quarterback Charlie Frye can stay upright he'll look for tight end Kellen Winslow first.

Winslow leads NFL tight ends this season with 56 catches, which have gone for 561 yards and three touchdowns. Two weeks ago he made 11 catches for 78 yards. Last week he caught five passes for 90 yards.

"He's just another quick outlet for them," said Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior. "Winslow's a good matchup when he's matched up with a linebacker. They'll try to use that to their advantage."

Winslow was the sixth pick of the 2004 draft. He's blossoming after missing all but two games in his first two seasons because of injuries.

Wide receiver Braylon Edwards was the third pick of the 2005 draft. The 6-3, 211-pounder out of Michigan appeared in only 10 games as a rookie and caught 32 passes (16.0 avg.). He's started every game this season and has 33 receptions (14.2) and three touchdowns. He's scored touchdowns in each of the last two games.

Joe Jurevicius, who turns 32 on Dec. 23, has 15 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns in his return to his hometown. In last year's Super Bowl, Jurevicius caught five passes for 93 yards for Seattle.

The Browns' No. 3 receiver is the inconsistent Dennis Northcutt (15-121-0), the NFL's punt-return leader.

"The key is Winslow and Braylon Edwards," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "We have to stop those two guys first. Those are the guys with the most catches and those are the guys you have to look at first. We feel we can match up with the other guys."


Except for rookie punt returner Willie Reid – who's played only one game this season (1-11; team average 5.7) – the Steelers are at full health for today's game.

Droughns hasn't practiced all week, but will be a game-day decision for the Browns. The halfback remained in Atlanta last Sunday night and woke up with a swollen foot. He's been in and out of a walking boot this week.

The Browns will once again be without cornerback Leigh Bodden, who was downgraded with an ankle injury.


The Browns' most significant free-agent acquisition last spring was center LeCharles Bentley, who went down for the season on the first play of training camp. His backup, Bob Hallen, quit the team, and his backup, Alonzo Ephraim, was suspended for substance abuse. So the Browns traded for Lennie Friedman, Ross Tucker and Hank Fraley. Tucker was cut and Fraley has started every game at center.

Fraley, of course, was initially signed by the Steelers out of Robert Morris as an undrafted free agent in 2000. Because of injuries Fraley worked all preseason with the first team, but the Steelers kept reserve guard Tom Myslinski and tried to stash Fraley on the practice squad. However, Fraley was signed by the Eagles and became their full-time starter.

The knock on Fraley, according to a report from Cleveland, is that he has trouble blocking nose tackles in a 3-4 defense. The report cited his problems against Jamal Williams two weeks ago when the Chargers held the Browns to 89 yards rushing. In a 2004 game against the Steelers, Fraley's Eagles gained only 23 yards rushing.

"I can't think of any center that doesn't have problems with Casey or Williams," said Marvel Smith, who broke in with Fraley. "Either one of them, take your pick. Every center's going to have a tough time playing against them."

Or Chris Hoke. He started for the Steelers in place of Hampton against the Eagles in 2004.


• Josh Cribbs, Browns – fourth in the NFL with a kickoff return average of 26.8, going against Steelers kickoff defense that allows opponents to start, on average, at the 29.5-yard line, fourth-worst in the league.

Willie Parker, Steelers – coming off a 213-yard game and going against 30th-ranked run defense; could also threaten in the passing game. "Willie's hands are getting a lot better," warned Ben Roethlisberger. Parker's longest career reception is 48 yards (2005 opener).

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