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Steelers notebook: Browns return specialist Cribbs always a threat

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 7:12 p.m.

Jacoby Jones' 63-yard punt return touchdown effectively decided the Ravens' game, and now, the Steelers go up against Joshua Cribbs, who has three kickoff return touchdowns against them. The last one was in 2009.

“Josh Cribbs has made a living hurting people,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the Browns' return ace. “Obviously, it's going to be an element of preparation for us.”

The Ravens double-covered the Steelers' gunners, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, on Jones' return, and Sean Considine's seal block on Ryan Mundy created a wide-open running lane. Jones then outran, among others, running back Baron Batch.

Some teams don't like using offensive players on kick returns because they aren't as accustomed to tackling.

• Tomlin, as he always does on Thanksgiving, went from player to player in the locker room following practice Thursday to make sure each one — especially the single players — had a place to eat and enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. In the past, those who didn't have family in town were directed to a teammate's house so they wouldn't miss out on the holiday.

• Colts interim coach Bruce Arians, the former Steelers offensive coordinator, was asked one of those standard what-are-you-thankful for on Thanksgiving questions. His answer? “I'm thankful for the Pittsburgh Steelers letting me go to be here,” Arians said. “Truthfully, I couldn't think of a better place to be at this point in time and to have felt more needed, probably, in my entire life. So thank you Pittsburgh.” Arians was eased out of Pittsburgh after last season because the organization wanted to take a different offensive approach.

• Steelers new backup quarterback Brian Hoyer didn't get off the bench much during his three seasons with the Patriots. Tom Brady's backups simply don't play. But the former Michigan State player said preparing with Brady on a daily basis was like taking a graduate course in quarterbacking. “That's probably the best part of being in New England, working with him every day and having him there to mentor me,” Hoyer said. “For me, it was invaluable to play behind a guy like that. He was a great friend to me, and I still keep in touch with him now. You learn how a great one does it.” Haleysaid it hasn't taken Hoyer long to get familiar with the offense, which is similar in terminology to New England's. “He's a quick study, and he's been around and backed up on a really good team behind a really good quarterback,” Haley said. “He didn't have ‘big eyes,' so to speak. He steps into the huddle and takes control. He's a smart guy who's working his backside off to help us if we need him.”

• IfPlaxico Burress makes an immediate impact with the Steelers, it likely will be as a red-zone receiver. Last season, the Jets were No. 1 in red-zone efficiency, in large part because of the 6-foot-5 Burress's big catches in traffic. Seven of his eight touchdowns came inside the 20-yard line, and 10 of his 21 catches there went for first downs. The Steelers are 20th inside the red zone. “He brings us size. Now we've got to get him up to speed,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “That's the challenge.”

• The Steelers' injury report was virtually unchanged, except that defensive end Ziggy Hood (back) was a limited practice participant after being out Wednesday. Wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) was limited again and isn't expected to play, and safety Troy Polamalu (calf) remained out.

• It's been nearly a year since Steelers first-round draft pick David DeCastro last played in a meaningful games. The last for-real game for the right guard was Stanford's Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State on Jan. 2. His preseason right knee injury has prevented him from playing in an NFL game. “Never,” DeCastro said when asked if he's had a layoff like this. “The longest injury I had in high school was four weeks, and it wasn't even during the season.”

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