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Browns' Cribbs able to burn Steelers again

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Scott Brown
Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009
 

The plan to play keep-away from Joshua Cribbs didn't stop the Browns' return specialist from having another big game against the Steelers.

Cribbs had more than 100 return yards in the Browns' 13-6 win over the Steelers on Thursday night. His 55-yard punt return in the first quarter set up the game's first score, a 29-yard Phil Dawson field goal.

It came after Cribbs initially dropped Daniel Sepulveda's punt in the middle of the field, scooped up the loose ball, and then made the first wave of Steelers' defenders miss. Sepulveda saved the touchdown by tackling Cribbs at the Steelers' 8-yard line.

"We actually, believe it or not, were attempting to put the ball on the sidelines," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "In weather conditions like that, it's hard to control the flight pattern of the ball."

Cribbs returned a kickoff for a touchdown earlier this season against the Steelers. He also had a kickoff return for a touchdown against them in 2007.

"Not one time did we intend to put the ball in the middle of the field with that guy because of the history we have with him," Tomlin said.

» Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't offer much more than short responses to questions following the Steelers' 13-6 loss to the Browns on Thursday night.

When asked after the Steelers fell to 6-7 whether they are better than their record indicates, Roethlisberger said, "I think we are a good team." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn't quite as charitable.

"Based on recent trends, in terms of our record and how we've played recently, you cannot say that," Tomlin said. "I'm being very honest in terms of where we are right now."

» Roethlisberger said the Steelers had a good call for their final play of the game against the Browns. Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Browns' 39-yard line, Roethlisberger threw a pass to Santonio Holmes in the middle of the field, but inside linebacker David Bowens broke it up. Roethlisberger said he didn't see Bowens, who had dropped into coverage, until he released the ball. Bowens almost intercepted the pass.

"As long as I got something on it, I was happy," he said.

» Tomlin said "hindsight is 20/20" when asked if the Steelers should have run the ball more on third down early in the game. On the Steelers' first possession, Roethlisberger got sacked on a third-and-1. On their second possession, he got sacked on a third-and-3 play.

"Early on, we had some looks that we wanted to catch (the Browns) on and thought we could get the ball out of our hands quickly," Tomlin said. "Guys didn't come open, and we got sacked."

» Tomlin said Brett Keisel suffered a "stinger" against the Browns, but the starting defensive end later returned to the game. Tomlin said it was the only injury of note in the game.

» Hines Ward needs 57 receiving to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season and sixth time of his career.

DIGITS

3 — Times the Steelers converted on third down in 14 attempts in their 13-6 loss to the Browns.

4 — Turnovers the Steelers have forced during their five-game losing streak.

QUOTABLE

"You don't feel that it is in the midst of it, but this is a results-oriented business. If the results are not what you desire, then you have to look at all elements of it, and preparation is a part of that." — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, on whether game preparation is lacking.

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