Head to head: Browns QB Brady Quinn vs. Steelers CB Joe Burnett

A closer look at the game within the game

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For a team that had scored just five offensive touchdowns in the previous 15 games, Brady Quinn's sudden offensive production as the Cleveland Browns' quarterback must look like a volcanic eruption.

And, based on the number of big plays and second-half passing yards surrendered by the Steelers during a four-game losing streak, the prospect for more touchdowns should be tantalizing for the league's worst offense.

After all, if the Steelers can allow 27 points each to the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders -- the 30th- and 31st-ranked offenses, respectively, in the NFL -- there is good reason to suspect that even the anemic Browns can muster a touchdown or three against a listing secondary.

"I don't know," said Quinn, when asked about the recent foils of the Steelers' secondary. "Pittsburgh's a great team regardless of their record. We know what they're capable of and how good they can be, so this isn't one of those things where you feel you're catching a team at a good time. They're a good team."

Nonetheless, there is no better time for a quarterback to do his holiday shopping than in the store known as the Steelers' secondary, where big-play gifts abound and shoppers can move freely through the passing lanes and zone coverages.

After allowing only two pass plays of 40 yards or longer last season, the Steelers have allowed seven in the past four games -- none longer than the 75-yard touchdown to Oakland's Louis Murphy, a play in which Ike Taylor not only had the wrong technique (he was supposed to have inside coverage, not outside), he also failed to shove Murphy out of bounds at the Steelers' 15.

What's more, the secondary appears to dissipate and crumble as the game progresses, a disturbing trend that has been occurring since Week 2. In just the past three games, the Steelers have allowed 590 yards passing in the second half alone.

On top of that, coach Mike Tomlin plans to either start or rotate two rookie cornerbacks against the Browns, using Joe Burnett for William Gay and Keenan Lewis for Taylor.

That should be very inviting for Quinn, who is starting to throw the ball downfield out of the Browns' no-huddle offense. Not only has he passed for 675 yards and seven touchdowns in the past three games, he hasn't thrown an interception in the past three games, either -- not that it would matter against the Steelers' cornerbacks.

"I think it's a function of a few different things," Browns coach Eric Mangini said of his team's new-found passing attack. "Some of it is opportunity, based on the coverage. Some of it is protection, being able to pick up the different pressures that come, being able to sit back and let the route develop. It's not a specific emphasis where we say, 'OK, we have to throw this many shots this game.'

"We have those downfield patterns; every game they're called. But what you don't want to do is force the ball merely for the sake of throwing it deep."



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