Browns-Steelers matchup of the day: Friday

Posted Oct. 15, 2010 @ 11:41 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a closer look at a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Steelers game:

Browns WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs  vs. the Steelers' secondary

Browns head coach Eric Mangini, asked Thursday about his offense's "quick-strike ability," had an interesting take on the situation.

"I thought we missed a touchdown last weekend (against Atlanta), the ball was just a little bit too far out in front of Josh (Cribbs)," Mangini said, according to the club, referring to a long pass from Jake Delhomme to Cribbs that fell incomplete. "I think that would have either gone deep into the red zone or gone for a score."

Mangini also noted that the team tried to stretch the field early in the campaign without the success he would have liked.

"Typically, we get a few of those each game, some of those 'go' routes that we threw earlier in the season we were missing," he said. "We weren't missing by much, but we were missing. And I'd like to obviously see those hit.

"(You're) only going to get one or two a game to really change the dynamic of a game, and those put you in scoring opportunities, and it also loosens up the defense some. We are going to throw them and continue to throw them and we want the hit rate to increase."

The assumption is the Browns, already conservative on offense, will be even more so on Sunday with rookie QB Colt McCoy expected to make his first career start. But running the ball into the middle of the Steelers' line all day, while relatively safe, isn't a drive-sustaining strategy against a very, very good defense.

Expect the Browns to let McCoy take a shot, or perhaps multiple shots, downfield, but likely only when they have good field position. Massaquoi, their top vertical threat, could be the target, but Cribbs also can get deep, too. 

If Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll swings for the fences, it's on the offensive line to give McCoy the time he needs, and it's on McCoy to give his receivers a chance. And his receivers, if in a jump -ball situation, must prevail, for scoring opportunities will be very precious.

Steelers CBs Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden are physical and good fits in Dick LeBeau's zone-blitzing scheme but neither is known for his ball skills. You would have to think their run-support skills will be frequently utilized Sunday, but the Browns may test them with the deep pass. Really, what does Cleveland have to lose if it takes a calculated risk or two?