AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen will likely play a reduced role Monday night against the Houston Texans.

Allen appears to have lost his starting job to Brice McCain and will probably be relegated to nickelback in the 8:30 ET game at Heinz Field.

Allen’s talent is undeniable but consistency has eluded the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder. The frustration that has caused among the Steelers’ coaches has led to Allen’s benching, even if it is only temporary.

I had a chance to ask Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake about Allen recently and a little context about this interview: It took place after Allen had intercepted a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars -- and played arguably his best game of the season -- and before the former fourth-round draft pick gave up a long touchdown catch in Cleveland and struggled in a loss to the Browns.

Here is what Lake said about Allen.

Is Cortez Allen where you want him to be?

CL: Not yet but we’re working on it every week. He’s making the necessary corrections quickly in order to get himself to the next level. I think if he can kind of stay focused he has the potential to be pretty good in this league.

Is he anywhere close to his ceiling?

CL: I think he’s still learning the game. I think he’s got a lot more in him just from an understanding standpoint. Athletically I’m not really concerned so much. I think he has ability to tie that with the understanding of football in general and what offenses are trying to do. With his hands and his instincts for the ball, I’m hoping when it comes together it’s going to be something where people go, ‘Wow, this is a pretty good corner.’

Is he still learning because he played at a smaller school in college?

CL: I think his athleticism at that level, playing for The Citadel, he could kind of get away and not really lock in because he just had so much more talent than a lot of people. He could put it on auto pilot and still make a lot of plays. Up here, playing against receivers like [Antonio] Brown, you’ve really got to focus because as soon as you think they’re one way they’re another way and that’s how they play the game. Schematically as well, from a big-picture standpoint, there’s a lot of that going on with offensive coordinators and they’re going to pick on a relatively new corner. They’re going to test their mettle to see if they’re paying attention.

So as a coach you are constantly telling him to stay focused as a way of becoming more consistent?

CL: I think that’s the only way to be as a corner because as soon as you lapse for a minute somebody’s making a play on you. 'Tez has a long stride, he’s playing against a variety of receivers from tall and big to short and quick. 'Tez has to learn to hone his game in to be able to have the depth to say, ‘OK, this is how I can play successfully against this type of receiver and this is how I have to change my game to be successful against this type of receiver.’ You’ve got a Steve Smith or you’ve got a Megatron [Calvin Johnson]. That’s a totally different set of skills you need to start developing. But there are some fundamentals that you can carry between those two types of receivers. He needs to strengthen those fundamental skills and also have more tools in his toolbox.
PITTSBURGH -- Knee injuries likely won’t prevent Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell and defensive end Brett Keisel from playing Monday night against the Houston Texans.

Mitchell and Keisel are listed as probable for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field in the Steelers’ final injury report of the week.

Starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is listed questionable after missing the past three games because of a sprained right knee.

Safety Shamarko Thomas will miss his second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) were declared out at the beginning of the week.

Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is listed as questionable. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft has missed the past five games after having early season knee surgery.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien has said Clowney will be a game-time decision.
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau gave cornerback Cortez Allen a vote of confidence, but he also acknowledged it might do the fourth-year veteran some good to step back while he is struggling.

Allen is expected to lose snaps to Brice McCain and probably his starting job when the Steelers play the Houston Texans Monday night at Heinz Field. The two will likely flip positions, with McCain starting at left cornerback and Allen playing nickelback when the Steelers go with five defensive backs.

The Steelers might not play a lot of nickel with shutting down Texans running back Arian Foster, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, their biggest challenge in the nationally televised game.

Coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that there would be some lineup changes following a 31-10 loss at Cleveland. He also said McCain is a candidate to play more because of the “inconsistency” of other players.

It didn’t take any master code-breaking to figure out that Allen is in line for a demotion, even if it is only a temporary one. Allen leads the Steelers with two interceptions but consistency has eluded him.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder had a tough outing against the Browns, giving up a 51-yard touchdown catch to tight end Jordan Cameron, one of the key plays in the game.

“He’s still basically a young player and he’s at a difficult position and sometimes there are ups and downs there,” LeBeau said of Allen. “I have great confidence that he’ll find himself through it and be a very strong player.”

He better.

The Steelers signed Allen to a five-year, $26 million contract right before the start of the regular season, and they need to build around the former fourth-round draft pick at cornerback.

When asked if sometimes it helps struggling plays to take a step back and watch for a week, LeBeau said, “I’m thinking that it does. We’ll see.”
PITTSBURGH – Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is well aware that the Pittsburgh Steelers have to become much more efficient when they are inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

But Haley also reviewed where else the Steelers are squandering points, and he said he came up with more than 10 plays outside of the red zone that cost them about six points per game.

“I did a study [Wednesday] night,” Haley said. “It’s easy to statistically point at the red zone and say we just aren’t good in the red zone. But I came up with 11 plays, getting knocked out with a sack or a penalty, in the fringe area, that we got no points. We dropped balls in the end zone that cost us four points because we had to settle for a field goal. Touchdowns came off the board against Cleveland the first game. I counted 37 points [from] non-red zone plays that you would statistically look at that we left out on the field by getting no points in most cases.

“We would take those 37 points in a heartbeat. Yes, we want to score when we get in the red zone. We want to score touchdowns. But we have to be a smart football team in that fringe field-goal area because we can’t afford not to get those three points, and we end up with zero, like it has happened too many times this season in six games.”

Haley said the study affirmed to him that the Steelers are taking the right approach offensively even though they are sixth in the NFL in total yards (396.5 yards per game) but just 23rd in scoring (20.7 points per game).

"It really did, because again, that’s just getting the minimum points. That’s not counting the times we could have scored a touchdown. That was based on kicking the ball through the uprights and taking the three points,” Haley said. “We would be averaging 26.5 points and it would match up with 400 yards per game, and we would be up there where we need to be scoring points, and we would probably have at least one, maybe two more wins.”
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel and starting safety Mike Mitchell did not practice on Thursday, but inside linebacker Ryan Shazier participated in drills on a limited basis for the second consecutive day.

Keisel and Mitchell are working their way back from knee injuries, and the latter said on Wednesday that he plans on playing Monday night against the Houston Texans.

Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) have already been ruled out for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

In addition to Keisel and Mitchell, fullback Will Johnson did not practice on Thursday because of an illness. Strong safety Troy Polamalu was given a veteran’s day off.

Shazier, who has missed the past three games with a sprained knee, is still limited as he tries to work his work way back to the field.

Strong safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) and defensive end Cameron Heyward (ankle) were also limited in practice. Heyward has said he will play against the Texans.

In Houston, linebackers Jadeveon Clowney (knee), Brian Cushing (knee), and Brooks Reed (groin) did not practice because of injuries. Cornerback Darryl Morris (ankle) also missed drills.

Running back Arian Foster (groin), wide receiver Andre Johnson (ankle), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (knee) and linebackers Mike Mohamed (calf) and Jeff Tarpinian (knee) all practiced on a limited basis.
PITTSBURGH -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did not see his forced retirement coming in 2012.

ESPN’s Tim Keown wrote an excellent profile on Arians and chronicled the winding road Arians took to a head coaching job in the NFL.

The part of the piece that will really resonate with Steelers fans is when Arians recalls getting a phone call from coach Mike Tomlin, not long after Pittsburgh had been bounced out of the playoffs by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

“I thought he was calling about a raise,” Arians told Keown. “Tells you what I know.”

After Tomlin informed Arians that his contract would not be renewed, the latter went along with the company line that Arians had decided to call it a coaching career. The Steelers eventually hired Todd Haley to take over for Arians.

When former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano landed the head job in Indianapolis, it also resurrected Arians’ coaching career.

He joined Pagano’s staff as an offensive coordinator and served as the interim head coach when Pagano was getting treated for leukemia.

The job that Arians did that season in Indianapolis led to his hiring by the Arizona Cardinals, and he has been one of the NFL’s most successful head coach since 2013.

Keown has a terrific statistic in his story: The Steelers were 55-25 with Arians as the offensive coordinator and they are 19-19 with Haley.

That comparison does require a little context.

The Steelers generally had really good to great defenses when Arians was the offensive coordinator from 2007-11. The Steelers have fielded middling defenses since Haley joined he organization in 2012.

As much as some want to bash Haley, it would be revisionist to suggest that Arians was beloved by Steelers fans when he was calling the plays.

It is also worth remembering that the Steelers won their share of game from 2007-11 in spite of their offense though Arians often had to make do with a banged-up offensive line.
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been patient with Markus Wheaton but that might be running a little thin after the second-year wide receiver caught just four passes last Sunday in Cleveland despite getting targeted 11 times.

Wheaton caught six passes for 97 yards against the Browns in the season opener, but he didn’t make anywhere near that impact in the second meeting between the AFC North rivals, something Tomlin bluntly pointed out on Tuesday.

“We made plays in the opener, particularly [with] Markus Wheaton being one of the central guys in that area,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t make situational plays last Sunday and that’s why we lost.”

Wheaton was the biggest offender in that area, at least on an offense that managed just one touchdown in each of the last two games. He and Ben Roethlisberger seemed to be operating off different scripts, something that became painfully obvious to the Steelers on a critical third down early in the second quarter.

With the Steelers at the Browns’ 17-yard line and needing 3 yards for a first down, Roethlisberger whipped a pass that Wheaton wasn’t expecting in the middle of the field. A surprised Wheaton knocked it down more than anything.

Tomlin flatly characterized it as a drop, putting the onus from the lack of execution squarely on Wheaton.

Roethlisberger said before the Steelers' first practice of the week that Wheaton is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL game after playing just 152 snaps as a rookie and missing four games because of a broken finger.

“In college you can kind of wait for a receiver to come out of a break before you throw it,” Roethlisberger said. “Here you have to throw it before they come out of their break. He’s working hard to make sure he gets the proper depth, to get his hands around with his head and make the play. I know he will.”

Wheaton followed through on a promise he made after the Steelers’ 31-10 loss to the Browns. The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder showed up at the Steelers’ practice facility early Wednesday morning so he could watch film of the game with his quarterback.

“I think that speaks volumes about him wanting to get in there, wanting to learn, to be corrected,” Roethlisberger said. “I broke down every single pass play that he did and told him what I thought he did right and what he did wrong. He’s the type of guy that’s going to take that and make him better. I have all the confidence in the world that Markus will come out and be better than ever.”
PITTSBURGH -- A Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is reeling after giving up four touchdowns and 360 yards after the first quarter in a 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns is also banged up.

Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon won’t play Monday night against the visiting Houston Texans because of a sprained shoulder. Starting free safety Mike Mitchell (knee) and defensive end Brett Keisel (knee) will be monitored this week in practice, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, putting their participation Monday in question.

Keisel said after the loss to the Browns that he will be fine.

Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) and strong safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) will practice in some capacity this week, Tomlin said.

Shazier, who has missed the Steelers’ last three games, practiced on a limited basis last week. There is an outside chance the first-round pick could play against the Texans.

If Shazier is unable to play Monday night, the Steelers will be missing at least four starters on defense.

With McLendon out, rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers is likely to dress for his first game.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward hurt his ankle late in the loss to the Browns but is expected to be OK. Heyward was furious after getting chop blocked by Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas, and after the game the fourth-year veteran said it is “cowardly” for teams to chop block.

Tomlin said Thomas’ block was a legal one even though Heyward got hurt on the play.

“He was upset, but I think his anger had to do with how the game was going as well,” Tomlin said Tuesday.
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he respects that Bill Cowher and Hines Ward have jobs to do as NFL analysts, but he shrugged off criticism of their former team after a 31-10 loss in Cleveland.

“I don’t worry about that. That’s elevator music as far as I’m concerned,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I’m concerned about the things that are significant and that’s the men inside this organization right now and how they prepare and how they play. Love those guys, but those guys are on the outside looking in.”

Cowher, who coached the Steelers for 15 seasons before Tomlin succeeded him, said on CBS’ NFL Today on Sunday that Pittsburgh is “soft” on defense and too “finesse” on offense. Ward, the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver, said on NBC that “I look at their personnel; they can’t cover anybody in the secondary. Offensively, I thought I’d never say it, but the Steelers are a finesse offense right now. I don’t even know who these guys are.”

Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have endured criticism from a number of different fronts with the Steelers 3-3 following consecutive 8-8 seasons.

Tomlin said he will look at making some changes in personnel but that the Steelers will largely stay the course as far as what they are doing on offense and defense from a schematic standpoint.

The Steelers are fourth in the NFL in total offense (396.5 yards per game) but just 23rd in scoring (20.7 points per game) largely because they have the second-worst red-zone offense in the league.

“Right now it’s not sweeping or drastic changes as far as who and what we are schematically,” Tomlin said. “I will look at who we utilize and where in all three phases.”

Among those players who could see increased roles Monday night against the Houston Texans are cornerback Brice McCain and rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

Bryant has yet to dress for a game but the 6-4, 210-pounder has the size that could help the Steelers’ passing game when they get close to the end zone.

The Steelers have scored touchdowns just 36.8 percent of the time that they have been inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.

“We’ve got to score when we put the ball in scoring position, and we haven’t done it consistently enough and we better fix it,” Tomlin said.

The Film Don't Lie: Steelers

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
A weekly look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers must fix:

Two successful misdirection plays allowed the Cleveland Browns to flip the momentum Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- and eventually blow out their longtime tormentors.

A 45-yard catch by a wide-open Jordan Cameron led to the Browns’ first touchdown. The tight end caught a 51-yard touchdown pass later in the second quarter, again after the Steelers were sucked in by play-action.

What left Steelers coach Mike Tomlin incredulous after the 31-10 loss is that the Steelers twice let Cameron run free after he had caught a 47-yard pass against them in the season opener Sept. 7.

The success of the Browns' running game this season set up the misdirection plays and the Steelers could see more of the same Monday night when they host the Houston Texans.

Arian Foster, who is third in the NFL with 513 rushing yards, is as good of a stretch-play runner as there is in the league. The Texans are likely to use play-action to Foster to set up shots down the field if the Steelers are too aggressive in trying to stop the run.

Foster gashed the Steelers the last time he played against them, rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown in 2011.
PITTSBURGH – NFL analyst Bill Cowher did not opt for subtlety or discretion in leveling his harshest criticism of the Pittsburgh Steelers since stepping down as the organization’s head coach following the 2006 season.

Cowher questioned the Steelers’ toughness on defense following Pittsburgh’s 31-10 loss at Cleveland on Sunday, and he did it on a national platform.

“I think they’re finesse on offense and soft on defense,” Cowher said late Sunday afternoon on CBS’ postgame show.

Cowher’s critique should resonate for several reasons.

It is all but impossible to refute after the Steelers were embarrassed by the Browns and lost by at least 20 points for the second time this season. And this is not the case of a former head coach looking over his successor’s shoulder or angling for a job.

Cowher has been out of coaching for almost a decade and has shown no inclination to return to the sidelines. The Pittsburgh area native has generally refrained from criticizing Mike Tomlin, and Cowher has done anything but hover over the organization he guided on the field from 1992-2006.

Cowher went 161-99-1 in 15 seasons as the Steelers’ head coach, and he led the team to its fifth Super Bowl title in 2005.

Like Tomlin, Cowher was just 34 years old when the Steelers hired him as their head coach.

Cowher’s most trying stretch came from 1998-2000 when the Steelers missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons. The Steelers are in danger of matching that after going 8-8 in 2012-13 and starting 3-3 this season.

The Steelers stuck with Cowher and he rewarded their patience by leading them to the playoffs in four of the next five seasons as well as the Super Bowl win.

Seven of Tomlin’s assistants either coached with Cowher or played for him in Pittsburgh, including defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Seven current Steelers players also suited up for Cowher, including strong safety Troy Polamalu, outside linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel.

Cowher has been an analyst for CBS since leaving the Steelers.

CLEVELAND -- Ben Roethlisberger beat the Cleveland Browns in 18 of his first 19 starts against them, including once while playing on only one good leg. He has so gleefully tormented the team that passed on drafting him in 2004 that what transpired Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium is proof something is very wrong with Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger completed just 21 of 42 passes in a 31-10 loss to the Browns and he led the Pittsburgh Steelers to one touchdown -- a late, meaningless one at that. The 11th-year veteran struggled with his accuracy so much, and in weather that was ideal for football, that Roethlisberger may have had trouble hitting Lake Erie even if he had been standing on its shores.

He was that bad in the loss that dropped the Steelers to 3-3, and he knew it.

“I hold myself to a higher standard and I’ve got to be better,” Roethlisberger said.

That is two games in a row Roethlisberger has not played well. That and the continued disconnect between the yards the Steelers are piling up and the meager numbers they are posting on scoreboards are sure to renew questions about the union between Roethlisberger and third-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Something is amiss with an offense that has managed just 20 points in the past two weeks, and the Roethlisberger-Haley dynamic is usually where disgruntled fans point first when the Steelers struggle.

The play calling has been curious with the Steelers becoming pass-happy when they were inside the Jaguars' 20-yard line last Sunday and then going to the other extreme against the Browns.

Haley has to take his share of blame for the offense's struggles but certainly not all of it.

A blown assignment up front on an early third-down run from the Browns' 3-yard line left LeGarrette Blount no chance to score, and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

On a third down from Cleveland's 17-yard line in the second quarter, Roethlisberger threw a pass that Markus Wheaton clearly was not expecting. The incompletion forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal attempt that holder Brad Wing botched.

The game turned on those two plays as the Steelers had been in command before the ill-fated field goal attempt. Yet the Steelers might not have had to attempt a field goal had Roethlisberger and Wheaton been in sync, something they weren’t all day.

Roethlisberger threw 11 passes Wheaton’s way and he caught only four of them.

“I think we had a good plan,” Roethlisberger said. “We came in with the right attitude and mindset. I didn’t play well enough. It’s very frustrating. We’re all frustrated but we’ll stay together.”

Such solidarity following a bitter loss was the one place where all of the Steelers’ offensive players were actually in the same place -- at least publicly.

Roethlisberger took the blame for the loss. Wheaton said Roethlisberger covered for him in regard to the communication issues the two had against the Browns. Running back Le’Veon Bell said to point the finger at him for the offense’s struggles.

“I think I’m frustrated like we all are because we are capable of moving the ball and possessing the ball, but the points aren’t reflective of that,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

When asked if the Steelers are going about playing offense the right way -- a thinly veiled reference to whether Haley is the right coach to lead it -- Tomlin said, “I am sure of it but we are not executing. We’ve got to look at all areas.”

They have to start by looking at how to get Roethlisberger to play better.

The Steelers' plan of remaining competitive while they rebuild a once fearsome defense hinges on Roethlisberger keeping them in games because he is a top-tier quarterback.

He has looked like anything but a franchise quarterback the past two weeks.
CLEVELAND -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
  • Wallace
    The question caused wide receiver Antonio Brown to pause, but he still delivered a diplomatic answer following a disappointing loss. The Steelers ran the ball early and often Sunday and targeted Brown just three times in the first half. The two-time Pro Bowler finished with seven catches for 118 yards. Asked if he should have been more of a focal point in the game plan because of his past success against Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, Brown said, “We’re just trying to find a way to win. It’s not about individual matchups.”
  • Defensive end Cameron Heyward didn’t hide his anger in the visiting locker room at FirstEnergy Field, and not just because the Steelers had been embarrassed by one of their archrivals. Heyward was still fuming at getting chop-blocked several times. Late in the fourth quarter, Heyward hurt his ankle and angrily pointed at Browns left tackle Joe Thomas several times as he walked off the field. Heyward did not sustain a significant injury, but that's beside the point, the fourth-year veteran said. "It's a dirty play,” Heyward said of chop-blocking. "We talk so much about safety. We don’t do a good job of keeping it safe for everybody. I think it’s cowardly thing, but if [the Browns are] going to coach it like that, that's their call.”
  • Defensive end Brett Keisel and free safety Mike Mitchell each sprained his knee against the Browns, but neither injury is believed to be serious. “I’ll be fine,” Keisel said. That each player conducted postgame interviews is a strong indication neither is seriously hurt. Nose tackle Steve McLendon sprained his right shoulder in the second half and did not return to the game. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Keisel, Mitchell and McLendon are still being evaluated.

Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12

CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

What it means: The Steelers didn’t just lose a game on a crisp, sunny day near the shores of Lake Erie. They may have also ceded the psychological advantage they have enjoyed since the NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999. The Browns dominated the Steelers after a slow start and have outscored their longtime tormentor 55-13 in the past six quarters. Unlike recent losses to the Browns, the Steelers couldn’t blame this one on not being ready to play or a rash of fumbles. The Browns (3-2) are simply the better team right now, and the franchise appears to be headed in the right direction. The Steelers have some serious soul-searching to do after falling to 3-3 and getting embarrassed in the process.

Stock watch: Something is wrong with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. A week after not playing particularly well in a narrow win at Jacksonville, Roethlisberger looked completely out of sync against a team he normally owns and was outplayed by Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer. Roethlisberger completed just 21 of 42 passes for 228 yards and seemed off all day in losing to the Browns for just the second time in 20 starts. He inexplicably kept throwing to second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton even though it looked like the two had met for the first time Sunday and had never played together before. Wheaton caught four passes for 33 yards despite getting 11 balls thrown his way. Roethlisberger just barely overshot a wide-open Wheaton in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Failure in all three phases: The synergy created when the different units play off one another was nowhere to be found for the Steelers during a disastrous second quarter. After the offense could not convert on yet another third down inside the opponent's 20-yard line, the Steelers had to settle for a 34-yard field goal attempt. But Shaun Suisham never got to kick as Brad Wing tried get too fine with the hold and killed the timing of the play. After Wing was thrown for a loss following a desperate attempt to run for the first down, the Steelers defense allowed the Browns to cover 68 yards in just five plays and score the first of three second-quarter touchdowns. The Browns outgained the Steelers 210 yards to 108 in the second quarter after getting outgained 73 to minus-8 in the game’s first 15 minutes.

Game ball: Wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 118 yards, and the two-time Pro Bowler may have been even more of a factor had the Steelers tried to involve him more in the offense early. Brown was one of the few Steelers who did his part against the Browns.

Injury update: Nose tackle Steve McLendon did not play in the second half because of a right shoulder injury. Defensive end Brett Keisel left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons hurt his back after a collision with free safety Mike Mitchell but returned to the game. Defensive end Cameron Heyward left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury but also returned. Linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee), safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) did not play because of injuries.

What’s next: The Steelers host the Houston Texans a week from Monday. The Texans have been off since losing 33-28 to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night. The Texans are 3-3 under first-year coach Bill O’Brien after winning just two games all of last season.