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Browns' McCoy still seeking first division win

| Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011

BEREA, Ohio — Colt McCoy is on his second trip through the AFC North and still searching for his first division win.

He's 0-7. Don't remind him.

"Trust me," he said Tuesday. "I know my record."

McCoy gets another chance to put a stop to his division drought Thursday as Cleveland visits the Steelers at always raucous Heinz Field, where the Browns' second-year quarterback made his NFL debut as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie last season.

Forced to play because of ankle injuries to starter Jake Delhomme and backup Seneca Wallace, McCoy had an impressive first outing against the Steelers, completing 23 of 33 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. Two interceptions flawed an otherwise stellar opening for McCoy, who doesn't remember much of that sunny October afternoon in the land of Terrible Towels.

"I can't even think back that far," McCoy said. "That was so long ago."

McCoy reported no problems after practicing Tuesday for the first time on a sprained right knee he injured in Sunday's 24-10 loss to Baltimore. He wore a sleeve over his knee, but didn't seem to have any trouble running or moving in the pocket during the segment of practice reporters were permitted to watch inside the team's indoor field house.

He'll need to be as mobile as possible this week. James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and the rest of those black-and-gold bad boys will be after him.

McCoy has already shown he won't be intimidated.

Two days before he faced the Steelers for the first time last year, McCoy stood in front of his teammates following practice and told them not to worry. The confident kid from Texas told them "the hay is in the barn," using a southern expression to let them know his work was done and he was prepared.

Not everyone believed him.

"It kind of took everybody aback," tight end Ben Watson said with a smile. "But it was him kind of taking a leadership role and letting us know that he was ready to go."

McCoy then went out and proved he belonged against one of the league's best defenses.

"He played well," Harrison said. "He gave his team an opportunity to win."

But the Browns lost, 28-10, keeping them winless in Pittsburgh since 2003, when Tim Couch was Cleveland's quarterback and McCoy was a high school sophomore.

It didn't go nearly as well for McCoy the second time around against the Steelers. The Steelers clobbered Cleveland, 41-20, in the season finale, sacking McCoy five times and sending Browns coach Eric Mangini into the sunset with another loss to the team's bitter rival.

McCoy wound up going 0-4 against division foes last season, and he's 0-3 in 2011. As the Browns evaluate McCoy, one of the criteria they'll use is his record inside one of the league's toughest divisions. He's running out of time to make it better.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur said McCoy's performance against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati are important, but he said the team's assessment of the quarterback position will encompass all 16 games.

"I think you look back on the full season, but how we compete in division games will factor in because we have to win division games in order to win our division," he said. "That's the starting point. That's how you get in the playoffs and it's the first goal of any organization is to win your division because then you're guaranteed a spot in the postseason.

"From a total evaluation standpoint, we'll have to look at the whole year in total," Shurmur said.

Shurmur was asked if the Browns remain undecided about McCoy.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "I'm going to hold all evaluations until the end of the year and I think right now he's our quarterback. He's standing right next to me battling through this season and I think that's the important thing. We just keep battling, that's what we do."

And what else do the Browns do• Lose to the Steelers — a lot.

The Steelers have won 14 of the last 15 and 20 of 22 against Cleveland, tilting the series decidedly toward Western Pennsylvania.

In order for the Browns to begin swinging it back their way on Thursday, they'll have to stop Pittsburgh from running the ball the way the Ravens did. Baltimore racked up 290 yards on the ground, a demolition that dropped the Browns five games behind the division co-leaders.

The blowout provided something of a reality check for the Browns, who realize they can't match Pittsburgh or Baltimore's talent and are also behind Cincinnati in the standings.

McCoy, though, believes the Browns aren't far from gaining ground in the division.

"The two games against Cincinnati, we were right there," he said. "We didn't make the plays to win at the end, but we felt like we should've won. Last week against Baltimore, we just didn't play good. That's the bottom line. We've got a lot of improvement to make and as we head into Pittsburgh, we're excited about it.

"These guys in here believe in each other. We all make mistakes, we practice hard, we take care of ourselves, we compete in practice and eventually it's going to carry over. It is," McCoy added. "Right now, we've got to figure out in this short week what we can do to go in there and beat Pittsburgh."

Notes: Browns LB D'Qwell Jackson was named winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, given to one player from each NFL team who epitomizes qualities of "courage, compassion, commitment and community." Jackson, who missed most of the past two seasons with chest injuries, has a team-leading 112 tackles. During the past two offseasons, he has made missionary trips to Africa to visit schools and hospitals. He is also active in the Cleveland area. ... RB Peyton Hillis (hip) was limited in practice but expects to play. ... TE Ben Watson was unaware that Thursday will be his 100th career game. "Do I get a parade or something?" he cracked. ... OL Artis Hicks was excused from practice for a personal reason.

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