Published: Saturday, December 9, 2006
QB Anderson's play better than receivers
About half of his 16 incomplete throws were dropped by receivers.
By TOM WILLIAMS
PITTSBURGH Although quarterback Charlie Frye did not playing during Thursday's 27-7 loss to the Steelers, the Cleveland Browns would have a hard time convincing anyone he was desperately missed.
In his first NFL start, Derek Anderson completed 21 of 37 passes for 276 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Braylon Edwards late in the game.
But of Anderson's 16 incomplete passes, about half of them were dropped balls by a receiving corps that include first-round draft picks Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow (2004).
Asked about the dropped passes on the frigid night at Heinz Field, Browns coach Romeo Crennel didn't have much of an explanation.
"I don't know we have been catching them before," said Crennel after the Browns dropped to 4-9. " All of a sudden we have been dropping today. What can I say? Everybody [had] a hand in dropping them."
Smith plays a role
Credit Steelers rookie safety Anthony Smith from Hubbard for causing one of the early drops.
In the first quarter with the Browns trailing 7-0, Edwards caught a screen pass from Anderson, then was smacked by Smith, jarring the ball loose for an incomplete pass.
"We were out there hitting them hard and it's cold out they really weren't worried about catching the ball," said Smith who made his first start at free safety. "They started having trouble with catches, then they started looking for where the defensive backs were."
Crennel didn't disagree.
"We couldn't run it and they ran it consistently," the Browns second-year coach said after the Steelers out-rushed his squad, 303-18. "We couldn't catch it and they caught everything they had to.
"So when you can't stop them and you can't move it, you get beat and that's what happened. It's disappointing and I can't explain it. Don't know why it happened, but it did."
Crennel's report card for Anderson: average.
He put ball in their hands
"At least you can say he put it where it was supposed to be," Crennel said.
"In the first half, I thought he had some plays he could have made, but they dropped the ball," Crennel said. "And that's when we had the opportunity to make it a football game, but we couldn't do that and so the results saying that he didn't very well.
"Because in the second half he tried to force some things down the field," Crennel said. "They turned the ball over. It wasn't a good outing overall."
Running back Reuben Droughns, who was limited to 6 yards rushing on 5 carries, said the loss stung especially hard because it was to the Super Bowl Champions.
"It's a terrible taste because we lost to them both times last year," Droughns said. "We lost both times to them this year. That's a terrible taste in your mouth. You don't want to lose to your rival four times in a row."
Or 13 of 14 times. Since September 2000, the Browns' only win over the Steelers was in October 2003 at Heinz Field.
Anderson felt okay
Anderson said he "felt confident" despite getting his first start in one of the NFL's most hostile environments.
" I thought maybe they were going to pressure a bit more and they didn't," said Anderson of the Steelers' blitzing players. "Once they got ahead, they didn't really need to bring any pressure. But I felt pretty good out there."
In his first season for the Browns, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said that his new team was throttled by an old nemesis.
"We got our ass kicked," said Jurevicius whose Seahawks lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5. "There's no other way to put it. We keep talking about taking steps, but we took a step backwards tonight. It's frustrating."