BEREA — The Steelers’ passing attack vs. the Browns’ cornerbacks could be a battle of backups Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Steelers reportedly will be down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch after injuries to Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/rib) and Byron Leftwich (ribs). Pittsburgh is also dealing with injuries to receivers Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery.
The Steelers are looking to sign a backup quarterback, and receiver Plaxico Burress, who’s been out of the league all season, reportedly was coming in for a workout today and could be added to the roster.
The Browns’ cornerback issues were on display Sunday as the Cowboys scored the tying field goal with two seconds left in regulation and won 23-20 in overtime. The secondary was penalized seven times, including twice on the tying drive.
Joe Haden didn’t play with a strained oblique, Dimitri Patterson missed his fifth straight game with a high ankle sprain and ligament tear and Buster Skrine left in the fourth quarter with a concussion.
Shurmur didn’t have an update on Skrine, but said the decision to make Haden inactive came down to the wire Sunday morning.
“He made every effort to play,” Shurmur said Monday. “He was extremely disappointed he couldn’t play.
“We’ll try to get him ready. Obviously he has one more week to get healthy.”
Patterson said he’ll test the ankle today and could practice Wednesday, but added he wouldn’t push it.
“I have to be smart and say, ‘Am I going to be a liability on Sunday, or am I going to be an asset?’” he said. “I play one of the hardest positions in sports and that’s just what it is. I have to react. I have to have my ligaments at some of type of stable position to where I’m not thinking about it and I’m not going to set it back.”
Roethlisberger is 14-1 in his career against the Browns, so it’s a huge break for the Browns. But Batch beat Cleveland 34-21 in 2005 in the only game Roethlisberger has missed in the rivalry. He is 24-29 as a starter, 5-2 with the Steelers.
“Charlie’s a seasoned guy,” Patterson said. “If Charlie Batch is playing, I still see them as a good team because of how they play. They’re a team that’s going to run the ball well, they’re going to play good defense and they’re going to pass, be efficient.”
Veteran Sheldon Brown and rookies Trevin Wade and Johnson Bademosi would be the top three corners if the injured don’t return. Wade played 65 snaps Sunday at nickelback in his most extensive action, while Bademosi played 20 at the end after Skrine was knocked out. He had never played a defensive snap in the NFL.
“When I got out there I was happy to be out there,” said Bademosi, an undrafted free agent who broke up a
third-down pass in overtime. “I was looking forward to go out there and show what I was made of and I felt completely comfortable.”
The finish line
The Browns have lost five games by seven points or fewer this season, but Shurmur disagreed with the idea they don’t know how to win.
“We just have to find a way to finish. We have a whole locker room full of winners,” he said. “This whole organization is full of winners. We just have to put it all together and do it.”
Shurmur said there’s no formula for learning to finish but he stresses the importance of starting strong and finishing fast to the players. He said a team just has to come through in the clutch for a victory, and that usually becomes a springboard for further success.
“You put together a locker room of guys that are willing to fight and willing to work and then you do what you can to play the next opponent and then you go do it,” he said. “I think we got a locker room full of tough guys that are just going to keep pushing.”
Josh being Josh
Receiver/special teamer Joshua Cribbs told the Plain Dealer last week that he felt “caged” because he wasn’t playing enough on offense. After 41 catches in 2011, he has six.
“You know what, Josh is a very competitive guy,” Shurmur said in his first comments on the situation. “I said early last week how impressed I was with the impact he’s had on special teams.
“I’m sure he wants to touch the football every play. Most skill players feel that way about themselves. Josh is a tough guy and I appreciate what he brings to the table.”
Shurmur said he talks with Cribbs frequently. He played two offensive snaps Sunday and was supposed to get the ball, but the Cowboys defended him well.
“I think I know Josh now and I think I know what’s in his heart, and he’s just a competitive guy,” Shurmur said. “Very competitive guys — we can call it whatever we want to call it — but very competitive guys want to feel like they can make a difference in anything they do. I’m sure Josh thinks he can line the field better than the guys that do it. That’s OK, that’s OK.”
Trailing 17-13 with fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 1:47 left, Shurmur called a fade pass to tight end Jordan Cameron. He caught the pass about 3 yards out of bounds when Brandon Weeden’s throw was late and carried too far.
“We made the throw, we made the catch, we just have to do it where we get it inbounds,” Shurmur said. “I don’t have a problem with it, we just have to do it better.”
The defense forced a punt and Weeden threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson.
“That was an excellent throw to Ben down the middle,” Shurmur said.
Weeden finished 20-for-35 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and a 93.8 rating. He had a rough stretch in the second half when the Browns couldn’t get a first down, he almost threw an interception and he lost a fumble when he held the ball too long in the pocket.
Shurmur thought he recovered with a good fourth-quarter finish.
“He threw two touchdowns passes and for the most part was pretty efficient,” he said. “There is still plenty of mistakes in there, plenty of things he can do better.”
- Wade will play in his first Steelers game Sunday. “Coach talked about it a little bit and how it’s a rivalry thing,” he said. “I know a lot of fans put into it. I don’t know nothing about it yet. But I’m pretty sure I’ll find out.”
- Shurmur complimented the play of the special teams. Phil Dawson made two field goals to extend his streak to 25 and had touchbacks on all six kickoffs, punter Reggie Hodges continued to improve after a rough start and the Browns recovered an onside kick by the Cowboys.