Wearing a novelty T-shirt, baseball cap and sweat pants, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson shuffled past reporters and cameramen inside Cleveland’s deserted locker room.
“Oh Lord no, I’m not talking today,” Anderson, who never speaks on the day after a game, said playfully.
And really, after another loss in Pittsburgh, what’s there to say?
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Plagued by turnovers, missed tackles, more dropped passes and a defense that gave up 543 yards and couldn’t stop Ben Roethlisberger, the Browns were beaten 27-14 on Sunday by the Steelers, who won their 12th straight over Cleveland in a rivalry that’s been dead for nearly a decade.
On Monday, Browns coach Eric Mangini struggled to find many positives in his team’s erratic performance. There wasn’t much to feel good about or build off, so Mangini harped on the team’s need to work on the little things to improve the bigger picture.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “But it’s got to keep going forward.”
Mangini pledged to stick with Anderson, who is just 11 for 41 passing in his past two starts and had two fumbles and an interception against the Steelers. Anderson, though, was again victimized by drops. Cleveland’s receivers dropped at least eight passes one week after failing to catch eight throws in Buffalo.
Anderson, who replaced Brady Quinn in Week 3, isn’t the only problem. Just one of many for an offense that has produced four touchdowns in the past 12 games.
“There have been times where we’ve moved the ball really effectively,” Mangini said. “We have to do a much better job of not stopping ourselves whether it be with the dropped balls or some throws that are a little bit off, or it could be tightening up the protection or tightening up the routes – all those things – I think we can get better at that.
“There were some positive things that I’ve seen throughout the course of Derek working at quarterback that I think will get better.”
It’s hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Browns (1-5), who will host Green Bay (3-2) on Sunday.
Statistically, Cleveland is near the bottom as the offense is ranked 31st, the defense 32nd – next-to-last and last.
Mangini’s first season in Cleveland isn’t half over and the Browns already have endured three years worth of drama.
It’s not even November and the Browns have changed quarterbacks; traded star wide receiver Braylon Edwards; lost three division games and had kick specialist extraordinaire Joshua Cribbs grumble about the team’s unwillingness to redo his contract.
With the trading deadline set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, there’s a chance Mangini could make another move to alter a roster he has revamped with 26 new players.
Defensive end Corey Williams has heard rumblings that he might be on his way out of town, but he’s not paying much attention to the clatter.
“In one ear and out the other,” said Williams, who was not credited with a tackle in Sunday’s game. “You never know. You hear a lot of stuff, but I’m not going to take heed to it.”
Williams signed a six-year, $38 million deal with the Browns before the 2008 season. He had shoulder surgery after last season, and after a slow start, says he is now 100 percent – a fact that could make him attractive for a team looking for defensive line help.
A team, like, perhaps the New York Jets, who lost nose tackle Kris Jenkins to a season-ending knee injury on Monday. Mangini already has made two significant trades with his former team as he stockpiles future draft picks.
Mangini, though, can’t afford to give up any pass rushers. Without linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (flu), the Browns couldn’t put any pressure on Roethlisberger, who had unlimited time to throw and passed for 417 yards and two TDs. Pittsburgh’s receivers were wide open and when they caught the ball, missed tackles by the Browns‘ secondary and linebackers gave them huge gains.
Nothing went Cleveland’s way and that included a peculiar fourth-down measurement in the first half, when it appeared the Browns stopped the Steelers short of a first down on a sneak by Roethlisberger. Although TV replays showed the ball well short of the yard marker, referee Walt Anderson awarded the Steelers a first down.
Mangini shrugged his shoulders and offered a what-can-you-do smile when asked if he plans to call the NFL office for an explanation.
“We’ll get some more clarity on it,” he said. “But nothing can change, nothing can really happen from that. You deal with the next situation and move on.”