PITTSBURGH – Joshua Cribbs had an afternoon to remember on a Sunday to forget for the Browns.
The special teams dynamo returned one kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and ran back another 90 yards to set up a score. His heroics weren`t enough, though, as Pittsburgh rallied for a 31-28 win over Cleveland.
“Josh is a special player and you can expect amazing things from him,“ Browns running back Jamal Lewis said. “Coach (Romeo Crennel) told him last night that we needed a big return out of him, and he delivered.“
The 100-yard return was Cribbs` team-record fourth career TD on a kickoff – and unquestionably his most memorable.
The one-time Kent State quarterback muffed the squib kick near the 8-yard line, causing it to bounce backward and stop within inches of the end zone. To his teammates` surprise, Cribbs grabbed the football and took off up the Pittsburgh sideline. He tightroped the white stripe until the 20, then used a convoy of blockers to take him to the house.
“My guys were like, â€˜What`s he doing?` when I picked it up,“ said Cribbs, who broke another franchise record by averaging 51.0 yards on four kickoff returns. “Guys were coming at me slow-footed and I was like, â€˜Dodge here, dodge there.` It was like a video game.
“If it had gone in the end zone, I`d have taken a knee. But I had to take it and go with it.“
Cribbs` highlight-film score, coupled with his earlier near-TD, made him the first Cleveland player with two 90-yard runbacks in a game. His 204 yards on kickoff returns was the second-highest total in Browns history.
“Big players make big plays in big games,“ Cribbs said. “After Coach told me we needed a big return last night, I wrote â€˜visualize` on my (playbook). I was picturing everything about it from that point on.“
Though the third-year pro never lacks confidence, Cribbs said the main reason for his success is the wedge he runs behind.
He entered Week 10 leading the NFL in all-purpose yardage and had 223 more against the Steelers. Leon Washington of the Jets and Chicago`s Devin Hester, with three return TDs each this season, are the only players with more than Cribbs` two.
“With the great blocking from my team, I always have the confidence to go,“ Cribbs said. “I told them if they would block for me that I would get it into the end zone, and I did.“
LEWIS IS LACKING
Lewis had two fumbles, losing one, and finished with 35 rushing yards on 16 attempts. His lost fumble was critical, coming midway through the third quarter with Cleveland holding a 21-9 lead.
Pittsburgh recovered at the Browns` 38 and scored a touchdown four plays later.
“Playing against a high-caliber team, you can`t ease up or turn the ball over,“ Lewis said. “You`ve got to keep mashing the gas (pedal). We let a good one get away.“
Lewis has only gained 75 yards in a game once this season and is averaging 2.0 yards per carry over the last two weeks.
Braylon Edwards` second-quarter touchdown catch was his 10th of the season, giving him the most by a Browns wide receiver in 38 years. It was Edwards` lone reception.
* Safety Brodney Pool made his first interception since Nov. 12 of last year.
* Cribbs` 100-yard TD was the longest play in Heinz Field history, the second-longest return ever allowed by Pittsburgh and the fourth-longest kickoff return in Cleveland annals.
Linebacker James Harrison – Cribbs` ex-teammate with the Golden Flashes – forced both of Lewis` fumbles.
* Pittsburgh is 5-0 at home with an average score of 31-11. The Browns` four touchdowns tied the most allowed by the Steelers in 2007.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Steelers and Browns have each won 55 regular-season games in the Turnpike Series. This marks the first time Pittsburgh has ever been even in the rivalry, which began in 1950.
* Cleveland is 1-6 all-time at Heinz Field, last winning on Sept. 17, 2000.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.