CLEVELAND — Browns quarterback Colt McCoy made his season debut Sunday, but it came at the expense of rookie starter Brandon Weeden.
Weeden suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s 20-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, forcing McCoy onto the field for the final two series of the game.
“Brandon is good, we just had a good conversation,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s being treated for a concussion, but we’ll see where that goes. Some guys come back quickly, some guys don’t, so we’ll just have to see where that’s at. But he was responsive.”
Weeden’s injury occurred when he was hit by Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds on a third-down incompletion with 5:24 left. The force of the blow snapped his head backward into the left knee of Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas, visibly dazing him upon impact.
Though Weeden attempted to stay on the sideline, the Browns’ training staff insisted that he seek treatment in the locker room, where the concussion was diagnosed. Per NFL rules, he will not be permitted to speak with the media until he is cleared to practice.
“I first thought his helmet hit another guy’s helmet, but any time you’re getting whipped down like that and getting that whiplash effect, it’s not good on the noggin,” Thomas said.
McCoy did not attempt a pass in his first regular season action since Dec. 8, 2011 at Pittsburgh, handing the ball off to Trent Richardson on all six snaps that he took. Ironically, the former University of Texas star was knocked out of that Steelers game with a concussion, setting in motion Cleveland’s plan to draft Weeden.
For the record, Weeden is 3-8 with 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 70.9 passer rating in 11 NFL starts. McCoy is 6-15 with 20 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and a 74.5 rating in 21 professional starts, all coming with the Browns.
“Colt is a huge asset to this team, not only what he does in practice, but being a backup who is completely studied up as if he was the starter and completely ready and willing to take over the offense,” Thomas said. “Having him in there with the confidence he has, and the games that he’s got under his belt, is huge.”
To a man, though, Cleveland’s players hope Weeden is able to play next week in Oakland.
“Weeden is a warrior and he’s been around for a while, including to his age,” Richardson joked about his 29-year-old teammate. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be back, but if it comes down to it, we’ve got Colt and Colt makes smart decisions and Colt has been ready to play all year.”
Richardson said he was humbled after the game when Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison — a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year — complimented him before leaving the field.
“That was big,” said Richardson, who rushed for a game-high 85 yards. “A lot of Steelers went right to the locker room, but he was man enough to come up and tell me, ‘Good game.’ I said, ‘Thank you, man. You’ve got a good football team.’”
Most of Pittsburgh’s roster, however, did not stick around to congratulate the Browns following their first loss in the series since 2009.
The only Cleveland players who were around for their last victory over the Steelers were Thomas, Phil Dawson, Joshua Cribbs, D’Qwell Jackson, Ahtyba Rubin, Alex Mack, Mohamed Massaquoi, Kaluka Maiava, Reggie Hodges and Ray Ventrone.
“I didn’t expect anything different,” Jackson said. “They don’t respect us. Why would they? They’ve beat up on us in the past. We got one today and half their team walked off.”
- Cleveland forced eight turnovers (5 fumble recoveries and 3 interceptions), which was the most by an NFL team since New Orleans had eight takeaways against St. Louis on Oct. 28, 2001. The Browns’ last eight-takeaway performance came on Sept. 10, 1989 at Pittsburgh.
- Second-year tight end Jordan Cameron scored his first pro touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Weeden, while rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn recorded his first interception. Cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden also picked off passes from Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch.
- Hodges’ 10 punts were a career high and a Cleveland Browns Stadium record. Pittsburgh punt returner Emmanuel Sanders made six fair catches, which was one shy of the oft-tied NFL mark.
- Dawson extended his successful field goal streak to 27 straight, equaling his franchise record.
Out of action
The Browns’ inactives were safety Ventrone (calf), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (left high ankle sprain), guard Jarrod Shaw (illness), wide receiver Josh Cooper (knee), running back Brandon Jackson, fullback Owen Marecic, and defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron.
Safety Usama Young suffered a concussion while attempting to tackle Steelers tight end Heath Miller in the third quarter. Wide receiver Cribbs was taken to the locker room with a shoulder injury and Ward had his right leg examined, but neither missed any time. Fullback Alex Smith underwent X-rays on his ribs.
Pittsburgh did not dress quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder, ribs) and Byron Leftwich (broken ribs), safety Troy Polamalu (calf), wide receivers Antonio Brown (ankle) and Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, and tackle Marcus Gilbert. Tackle Mike Adams — a rookie from Ohio State — was carted off the field with a severe left ankle injury late in the third. Cleveland defensive tackle Phil Taylor rolled up on his lower leg while sacking Batch.
- The sellout crowd of 69,661 was the largest of the season at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Steelers fans comprised a much smaller percentage of the crowd than in recent years, but still filled roughly one-fifth of the seats.
- Cleveland wore its brown tops and white pants, forcing Pittsburgh to wear its less intimidating white shirts and gold pants. The kickoff conditions were sunny and 34 degrees with a light southwest wind.
- The Browns’ 20 points were their most against the Steelers since Nov. 11, 2007 at Heinz Field, where Pittsburgh scored a 31-28 win.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.