Browns analysis: Steelers close to a must-one
Scott Petrak | The Chronicle-Telegram
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Must-wins don’t exist in Week 2.
But Sunday night versus the Steelers is about as close as it gets.
The Browns can’t afford to start the season
0-2, with both losses at home. They can’t afford to fall two games behind the Steelers. They can’t afford to lose all the confidence and excitement accumulated through 10 wins last year.
An 0-2 start would require 10 wins in the final 14 games to have a reasonable shot at the postseason. It would require the recovery to begin on the road, against division foes Baltimore and Cincinnati. It would require the Browns to win in Pittsburgh in the season finale in case a tiebreaker is needed to reach the playoffs.
The Browns need to beat the Steelers on Sunday night. They need to show they won’t be pushed around, especially at Cleveland Browns Stadium. They need to let the Steelers know there’s a second contender for the AFC North title.
The Browns are coming off an awful opener, one in which they not only lost 28-10 to Dallas but looked unprepared and outmanned. But it’s way too early to give up on the season – even if the Browns lose to Pittsburgh.
The most important thing is to play better. They can’t line up incorrectly on offense and blow assignments on defense. They can’t be outschemed, as linebacker Willie McGinest noted Sunday night.
The players know this. And if they don’t, coach Romeo Crennel will remind them.
“We’ve got to get better as a football team,” he said Monday. “We didn’t play well enough in the first game and we need to play better in the next game.
“It’s a division game and there’s a lot riding on it. We’re going to work our behinds off to try to get ready for it.”
The Browns have yet to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. They have yet to prove they can handle the spotlight – and distractions – that comes with a national-television game. They have yet to prove they’re worthy of Al Michaels and John Madden.
They also haven’t given up. One loss, no matter how lopsided and disheartening, is only one loss. And a bounce-back win against the archrival will take away the sting and restore endless possibilities to the season.
“I feel like we have talent on this team,” Crennel said. “If this talent will play to their ability, then this can be a good team.”
The 10-point output against the Cowboys was troubling, but the prolific production of the offense last season makes it less a cause for concern.
Unless Donte Stallworth’s quadriceps injury turns out to be serious. (We’re supposed to get an update today.)
The quarterback, line, running back and tight end spots are solid. But without Stallworth, the receiver position becomes a big, fat question mark. Braylon Edwards is a star (drops or no drops), but he needs somebody on the other side who can at least threaten the defense.
Without Stallworth, Syndric Steptoe, Steve Sanders or a yet-to-be-signed veteran must emerge as more than a placeholder. If not, Edwards will see constant double coverage and be neutralized.
The wrong injury is about the only thing that could short-circuit Cleveland’s offense.
* People were concerned about young cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, but the safeties were a bigger problem against the Cowboys.
With Brodney Pool on the sideline with a concussion, Mike Adams was forced into action. He struggled in coverage against tight end Jason Witten, was a non-factor when asked to blitz and blew the assignment on Terrell Owens’ long touchdown.
Sean Jones couldn’t cover Witten, either, but that job would’ve gone to Pool, who has experience at cornerback. Jones is the team’s best blitzer, but didn’t get a chance because he was asked to drop deep in coverage.
The Browns signed receiver Paul Hubbard and running back Allen Patrick to the practice squad. Running back Omar Cuff was waived from the practice squad.
Hubbard, a sixth-round pick, was waived from the 53-man roster Saturday and replaced by Sanders.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email].