BEREA — Trent Richardson didn’t meet the expectations of many, including himself, in an injury-marred rookie season, but running backs coach Gary Brown believes he will become one of the NFL’s elite runners.
“He has that type of ability,” Brown said Friday. “I promise you this, we haven’t seen the best of him. We’ve seen flashes. Last week against Denver you saw the quickness again.
When he gets to the second or third year, you’ll be saying he’s one of the best in the league. I truly believe that.”
Richardson’s season ended Friday when coach Pat Shurmur ruled him out for the finale Sunday in Pittsburgh. Richardson sprained an ankle last week in the final minute of the loss to Denver when quarterback Colt McCoy was driven into him.
Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the draft, set team rookie records with 1,317 yards from scrimmage, 950 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 12 total touchdowns and 72 points. He averaged 3.6 yards a carry.
Richardson wasn’t available to the media this week and is expected to talk Monday.
“To his standards, disappointing,” Brown said. “I know for certain that he wanted to do more.
“He wanted to be more productive, but with the knee and the ribs, it kind of slowed his rookie season down. He’s still optimistic on being a top-flight running back in this league.”
Richardson had arthroscopic knee surgery in February and another during training camp in August. He missed the preseason but returned for the opener. Then in Week 6 he suffered a serious rib cartilage injury that affected him for the remainder of the year.
Richardson lacked the explosion expected from a top-10 pick, finishing with six runs of 15 yards, with a long of 32.
“If the knee’s not right as a running back, you don’t feel good and you’re not going to be as explosive until that confidence level gets higher,” Brown said. “And I think when the knee finally started feeling better, that’s when the rib hit.
“You can’t breathe, you can’t twist, you can’t turn, so for us to go out there and expect him to be the Trent that we all saw at Alabama, I think that we were putting a little bit too much on him. He went out and played and showed he’s a very mentally and physically tough kid. I think he holds himself to such a high standard, even though when he was running hard and playing well, he just didn’t feel like Trent. So God willing he’s going to come back strong from the rib and the knee is strong and then the city of Cleveland will see exactly what Trent Richardson is.”
BROWN OUT, STREAK ENDS
Cornerback Sheldon Brown will miss his first game in an 11-year career Sunday. He was ruled out with a concussion, which will end his streak of 175 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak for an active defensive player.
“Oh, it’s killing him,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “I know he wants to play. He won’t show it sitting at his locker, that’s what type of guy he is. Records aren’t anything, but there’s something to be said about a guy who’s never missed a (game) in five years, let alone 11.”
Brown was injured Sunday when Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley lowered his shoulder into Brown’s chest on a crossing route. Browns coaches said the hit wasn’t dirty and the NFL didn’t fine Stokley.
Jackson said Brown is feeling good, but he hasn’t been cleared to play.
“Unfortunately, he had a concussion and there’s protocol,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “That’s kind of out of our hands. He ran out of days to come back.”
B-JAX IS BACK
Running back Brandon Jackson should get his first carry in a Browns uniform Sunday. He will back up Montario Hardesty, and Shurmur said both will get rushes.
Jackson signed as a free agent in 2011 but missed the year with a toe injury. He’s been healthy this season but has been inactive for 13 games. He played in one, catching two passes for 20 yards.
“Mentally it was tough, physically it was tough, just going out and seeing the guys play week in and week out and not being able to go out to perform,” Jackson said. “I’m thankful I have a loving wife and beautiful kids to help me just stay motivated in times like this. I finally got the opportunity for the last game of the season to go out and basically have fun.”
The Steelers ruled out No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace with a hip injury and tackle Mike Adams, a rookie out of Ohio State, with an ankle injury. Cornerback Curtis Brown (ankle) and linebacker Marshall McFadden (abdomen) are also out.
Safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday and was listed as probable. He missed Wednesday and Thursday, but it wasn’t injury related.
** Rookie Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (calf) was listed as questionable for the Browns.
** Former Chronicle-Telegram sports editor and managing editor Rudy Dicks has written a book about the 1963 Steelers. “The ’63 Steelers: A Renegade Team’s Chase for Glory” is available on Amazon.com.
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