Cleveland Browns' banged-up secondary likely to face third-string Steelers QB Charlie Batch Mary Kay Cabot, The Plain Dealer 11/19/2012 [url]http://mobile.cleveland.com/advcleve/pm_29205/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=xSmAaLxA[/url]
BEREA, Ohio -- The Browns' banged-up secondary will catch a break Sunday against the Steelers, as nemesis Ben Roethlisberger and replacement Byron Leftwich are both sidelined with rib injuries.
The Steelers are now down to bare bones, with 37-year-old Charlie Batch set to start at QB against the Browns, according to NFL Network. They're also scrambling to sign another quarterback after Leftwich left with broken ribs during Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Ravens.
The Steelers are so battered at receiver, with an injury to Jerricho Cotchery Sunday night and Antonio Brown out two games with an ankle injury, that they're bringing in Plaxico Burress for a workout on Tuesday, according to numerous reports.
But the Steelers, who've won 16 of the last 17 meetings with Cleveland, will get no sympathy from the Browns, who were without starting cornerback Joe Haden (oblique) and backup Dimitri Patterson (ankle) in Dallas, where the Browns lost, 23-20, in overtime. Haden's replacement, Buster Skrine, left with a concussion in the fourth quarter, which forced rookie Johnson Bademosi into the lineup. Bademosi, a special-teams phenom, had never played a down from scrimmage.
Overall, the Browns played five defensive backs in their first or second year, including three rookies. Of the five, three played 69 percent of the snaps or more, including rookie safety Tashaun Gipson and rookie cornerback Trevin Wade. Heading into Sunday, the status of Haden, Patterson and Skrine is uncertain.
"No doubt about it, there were some guys that were forced in to play," said Patterson, who's missed five games with a torn ligament in his ankle. "At some point in time, somebody's going to see what you've got. You can't hide your whole career.
"If your role is to play special teams, you can't just live in that role, because someone's going to go down and you're going to have to play. Do you want it? Are you going to step up and play? That's how it is. This is the NFL."
Patterson, who will test his ankle Tuesday to see if he can practice Wednesday, acknowledged that Roethlisberger being out is a huge break. He's 14-1 against the Browns.
"No doubt about it, banged up or healthy, it don't matter -- the guy just extends plays," said Patterson. "You go from playing a game where you're covering from three to four seconds to six to seven seconds and it's a totally different animal. You have to be in it to know what that feels like. It's very tough to do. He's a very good player."
But the Browns aren't taking anything for granted. The Steelers roll into town with the league's No. 1 defense, including the top-ranked pass defense.
"Of course it affects them, but if Charlie's playing, he's been there," said Patterson. "He's a seasoned guy. 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 when they need to. They can still be there with Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich. They almost beat Baltimore. Any quarterback that plays, it's going to be a tough game."
Gipson, who played extensively Sunday in part because Ray Ventrone was out with a hand injury, acknowledged the magnitude of losing Roethlisberger, whose dislocated rib posed risks because of its proximity to his aorta.
"Big Ben is probably one of the better veteran quarterbacks in the NFL, so you lose a guy like that, that's gonna be a huge blow to the team," said Gipson. "But they're very capable of coming down here and doing whatever they have to do to get a win, and it's our job to get on a roll here in these last six weeks."
Gipson, who played at Wyoming, admitted he doesn't know much about Batch. But by Wednesday, he'll know more than he ever expected to. Batch is 24-29 as a starter, with 60 TDs and 48 INTs. His career rating is 77.8.
The Steelers originally drafted Burress, 35, with the eighth pick in 2000. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, he caught 261 passes and 22 touchdowns. He caught 33 TD passes for the Giants before sitting out 2009 and 2010 while imprisoned for possessing an illegal firearm. He returned with the Jets last year to catch 45 passes, including eight TDs.
Last month, he told USA Today, "You put me out there right now, and I go out there and dominate, have a couple of touchdowns or a hundred-yard game, then you just got to shake your head and smile and laugh."
The Browns are hoping to have some of their injured DBs back for this game, but Patterson, for one, made no promises.
"[Skrine's concussion is] not going to speed up my injury anymore," he said. "I have to be smart and say 'am I going to be a liability on Sunday, or am I going to be an asset?' I'm listening to my ankle. That's it."
Patterson admitted he won't risk a major setback.
"At the end of the day, everybody's [got] independent contracts and you all have to put good stuff on film at the end of the day," he said. "No one's going to step in for me and say 'I forgot he had an ankle.' No, they're going to be, 'he just got beat for three touchdowns.' That's the reality of the situation."