Steelers Notebook: Linemen banged up; Browns shrug off hits
Brett Keisel was injured on the game's first snap and was the first injured player to exit the playing field.
Afterward, he was the first out of the Steelers' locker room door.
"I'm OK," he offered quickly.
Keisel injured his left hamstring but remained in the game for 14 more plays and made two tackles. He iced the malady for a spell and tried to test it by walking along the Steelers bench, but snapped off his gloves and sat on the bench for the remainder of the first half. He donned shorts for the second half.
It was such a bruising kind of game for the Steelers, the 28-10 triumph against the Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday, that even Keisel's backup, Nick Eason, left for a time with an unspecified lower-body injury. Starting guards Chris Kemoeatu (unspecified) and Doug Legursky (knee) also were helped off the field but later returned, as did Eason.
"On the injury front, Brett Keisel appears to be the only one at this juncture who could be an issue moving forward," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's got a hamstring injury. I don't know the extent of that. We got to take a look at it, and, of course, I will have more information for you Tuesday in regards to his status [against Miami Sunday]. The rest of them are the bumps and bruises that go along with playing."
James Harrison put two key Browns out of the game, leading kick returner/receiver threat Joshua Cribbs plus receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, in the second quarter.
"Any time a guy on your team goes down, guys want to do something -- not dirty, but they want to respond," Cleveland tight end Evan Moore said. "Two of our guys went down with head injuries. They weren't penalties." Nor, he added, did the Browns believe Harrison or the Steelers were head-hunting.
"I heard guys talking afterward," Browns guard Eric Steinbach said, without elaborating. "I don't know if [the Cribbs hit] was head to head, head to shoulder. They didn't call it. ... Of course, look what the game is making us go out there and do. You're supposed to be playing physical and have all this emotion and testosterone built up out there. But the second a guy retaliates, he gets the flag."
Harrison "was just playing his game," added running back Peyton Hillis. "Playing hard."
Tomlin concluded: "Legal hits, not fineable hits. He played good football. James is always ready to deliver for his teammates. He always delivers timely performances when you need them. That's why we have so much respect for him. Talking to a lot of young players, they want to know the recipe for being a dominant, great player. It's not only delivering plays, but delivering plays in a timely manner -- significant plays."
Browns safety T.J. Ward clobbered Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall with a helmet-to-helmet tackle in the fourth quarter, and Mendenhall exited for the sideline.
"I don't really remember the hits from the game," he responded.
Was it a concussive collision, perhaps in retaliation for Harrison knocking out Cribbs and Massaquoi?
"Nah," said Mendenhall. "I just needed a blow."
By the way, Mendenhall -- with a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter -- scored a touchdown for the sixth consecutive home game.
With his third-quarter touchdown reception, Hines Ward moved past Jerome Bettis -- who was in attendance -- for second place on the Steelers' all-time touchdown list, with 80 touchdown pass receptions and one rushing score. The all-time leader is Hall of Famer Franco Harris with 100 touchdowns.
Ward also caught a pass late in the first quarter to give him 183 consecutive games with a reception, tying him for fourth all-time with Hall of Famer Art Monk.
"That's big," he said.
ESPN and CBS sent its ex-Steelers studio guys to the team's South Side practice facility to interview Ben Roethlisberger in the past fortnight, in preparation of his return after the four-game suspension.
You can view Merril Hoge's at ESPN.com and Bill Cowher's at CBSSports.com.
The reaction from some of the network's other studio analysts?
ESPN's Mike Ditka, an Aliquippa native and Pitt man: "The words have to translate into actions."
ESPN's Tom Jackson: "He's got to be the carburetor [at quarterback]. Fit into a team that already learned to win without you."
CBS' Boomer Esiason: "I love the 'Cowher Confessional,' because that's exactly what this has become. He's like the Pope of Pittsburgh, for crying out loud" for allowing Roethlisberger a venue. "But I will say Ben Roethlisberger brought this on himself. The fact that he says there is no truth to the allegations, I have a problem with that. Because he accepted a six-game suspension that was ultimately reduced to four games, and he had to undergo psychological evaluations during the offseason. If you are innocent and there is no truth to these allegations, then why the heck are you accepting all these punishments?"
Steelers safety Ryan Clark was so impressed with Browns rookie Colt McCoy, he endorsed him for Browns starting quarterback.
On a day when Josh Cribbs left in the second quarter after a thudding James Harrison hit, after three carries and one pass in his direction, that left the Browns with a significant portion of their offense missing and the unit's fate squarely in McCoy's hands.
He responded by going 23 of 33 for 281 yards and a touchdown, this despite five sacks and two interceptions. He also ran four times for 22 yards total.
"Colt McCoy did himself justice today," Clark said. "I think he should be their quarterback."
He passed Steelers muster, meaning they threw their usual amounts of different formations, feigned blitzes, confusing coverages and, of course, pocket pressure.
"Disguising our looks and getting after him," Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said. "He did all right. Still a young guy."
"I don't think he was rattled," Clark said. "He played well. Very poised. Exciting."
Clark concluded of the 85th pick of last April's draft: "I think they got a steal, getting that young guy where they got him."
McCoy's assessment of his NFL debut in Heinz Field: "That was an awesome place to play. Fans are great. They're yelling and screaming at you."
Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden will always have a memory of Sunday at Heinz Field, even though the Browns lost.
Haden grabbed the first interception of his pro career in the first quarter and nearly returned it for a touchdown, covering 62 yards on the play.
"It felt like it was back in my college days -- sweet," said Haden, the Browns first-round pick from the University of Florida.
"I just wish we'd won, though. I thought a couple of times I'd take it all the way. Then that lineman put his hands on me and I didn't go anywhere."
That lineman to which he referred: Steelers right tackle Flozell "The Hotel" Adams, listed at 6-foot-7, 340 pounds, put out an arm and flattened Haden, just 5-11 and 190.
On the play, Roethlisberger's pass was intended for running back Mewelde Moore. Haden stepped in front of Moore at the Browns' 3 and began a zig-zagging run through the Steelers offense before colliding with Adams at the Steelers' 35-yard line.
• For the second time this season -- Tampa Bay being the other -- the oft-criticized Steelers offensive line didn't permit a sack.
• Inactives were: guard Trai Essex (ankle), missing his third game; tackle Tony Hills; cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler; running back Jonathan Dwyer; linebacker Thaddeus Gibson; and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Charlie Batch, the previous starter, was the No. 3 quarterback, meaning Byron Leftwich was the backup.
• The crowd of 65,168 was the fifth-highest in Heinz Field's 10 seasons.
• The Browns Phil Dawson surpassed Hall of Famer Lou "The Toe" Groza with his 235th Cleveland field goal.
First Published October 18, 2010 12:00 am