Tuesday was a busy day at the team’s practice facility, signing quarterback Brian Hoyer and receiver Plaxico Burress. But the focus still was squarely on this week’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
Coach Mike Tomlin knows the Browns’ 2-8 record is not indicative of the talent they have or how they will play this week against the Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“They’ve been in some highly competitive games,” said Tomlin. “They beat Cincinnati, they were in the Indy game and the game last week went into overtime. Such is life in the National Football League. They’re a competitive bunch. They play for 60 minutes, we respect them and our focus is on our preparation and ultimately our play.
One of the main weapons the Browns have on offense is rookie running back Trent Richardson. When Richardson was drafted, Browns’ Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was critical of the selection, saying “I’m not overwhelmed with it. The problem is that he’s ordinary. I think he’s ordinary.”
Richardson has been anything but ordinary for the Browns, leading the team in rushing with 670 yards through 10 games and scoring five of the Browns six rushing touchdowns. He also is the team’s leading receiver with 37 catches for 289 yards and a touchdown.
“I was hopeful that the legendary Jim Brown was correct in his initial assessment of Richardson but I am disappointed,” said Tomlin, knowing Richardson is someone the team will have to contend with. “This guy is a talented runner. He has great contact balance. He is strong willed. He is highly productive. He has a downhill run demeanor. He finishes off runs. He has soft hands. He is their leading receiver as well. He is their feature ball carrier.
“He really is just living up to the expectations that come with being as high of a draft pick that he is. He is good for them in all circumstances, first, second and third-down, short yardage, goal line and in the red area. I mentioned what he is doing in the passing game. That’s probably as surprising as anything to me. Obviously, I don’t spend a lot of time evaluating guys that go that high in the draft, based on where we picked in the draft. But I did get a chance to look at him and he is as good as advertised.”
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The Steelers signed Burress after being impressed with his workout at the team’s indoor practice facility.
“He’s in really good physical condition based on the workout I just saw,” said Tomlin. “He’s got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight at break points. Obviously, he’s no stranger to football.”
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Charlie Batch will start at quarterback against the Browns after Byron Leftwich was injured against the Ravens on Sunday night. Tomlin said there won’t be major changes in the offense to fit Batch’s style, just some minor things.
“The changes will be subtle and they’ll be made with an emphasis geared toward maximizing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses,” said Tomlin. “We’ve got a great deal of confidence in Charlie. One thing that I can say about this quarterback situation, as uncomfortable as it may be or may appear to be, it is not something that we’re foreign to unfortunately. We’ve been as far as three and four deep in terms of playing quarterbacks in recent years. Definitely in ’09 and ’10.
“Those guys do an awesome job of rallying and answering the bell. We expect them to. So, we’re excited about him preparing and leading us this week.”
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