QB Campbell helping steady Browns as they prep for key matchup with rival Steelers
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Cleveland quarterback Jason Campbell, with a clipboard in hand, waited patiently for his turn to orchestrate the Browns' offense.
For die-hard fans in the Dawg Pound, their patience had worn thin with former first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden. They had grown tired of error-prone performances that extracted defeat from the jaws of victory.
With backup Brian Hoyer shelved with a season-ending knee injury, Campbell didn't complain when coach Rob Chudzinski opted to give Weeden one more chance. It took only two games before Weeden was pulled in favor of Campbell.
“I understood coming into this situation that Brandon was the No.1 draft pick, meaning he was going to be their guy,” said Campbell, who is battling a rib injury. “Rightfully, they had to give him a shot. When he got injured, they had to give Hoyer a shot.
“My faith is what kept me steady throughout this time. When the opportunity came, I was ready.”
Campbell has given the Browns a shot of adrenaline. He'll make his fourth start Sunday against the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland knowing there's no one looking over his shoulder.
“It seems like he can't get an opportunity to stick as a starting quarterback anywhere,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark, Campbell's former teammate in Washington. “But everywhere he goes, he ends up starting, and the team is better with him.”
The Browns (4-6) are 1-2 since Campbell took over, but he appears far more in command of the offense than Weeden. Despite a 37-27 setback at Cincinnati last Sunday, Campbell's teammates — including Weeden — gave him a resounding vote of confidence.
If the Browns are to win back-to-back home games against the Steelers for the first time in 20 years, Campbell must play better than he did in Cincinnati, especially in the red zone. The Browns netted only two field goals after getting inside the Cincinnati 10 on their first two possessions.
“The season is like a roller coaster,” said Campbell, who bounced from Chicago to Oakland to Cleveland since leaving Washington. “Pittsburgh is coming in hot, so we have to play as hard as we can, and we can't beat ourselves.”
Chudzinski said he believes Campbell can help restore the team's confidence.
“That's what really defines quarterbacks in this league, because they're going to go through some rough stretches and some have some rough games,” Chudzinski said.
The Browns' mistakes against Cincinnati practically took the game out of Campbell's hands.
The Bengals overwhelmed the offensive line with a pass rush that led to four sacks, three interceptions and nine quarterback hits.
“If you throw the ball 56 times, you're going to have protection problems,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We don't want to be in that position against the Steelers.”
The Browns would rather exploit the Steelers' 26th-ranked run defense, which is giving up 122.6 yards per game. However, the Browns' 26th-ranked rushing attack (83.6 yards), primarily Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya, hasn't run the ball well enough to take the pressure off Campbell.
Campbell had been able to effect the run game by escaping the pocket. The Bengals negated his legs by guarding every escape route.
“The biggest thing that happens is people get tape on you,” Turner said. “Cincinnati either had a guy spying him or their rushers didn't run up the field like Baltimore's did.
“Every week it's a new challenge.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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