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Monday, November 25, 2013
Browns relieved pressure on Roethlisberger

By Pat McManamon

There were some oddities in the way the Cleveland Browns defended the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton changed things, often using two linemen and two outside linebackers to provide pressure. He rarely called blitzes; as a result the Browns rarely got pressure.

It’s the third time season Horton dialed back the aggressiveness -- the same happened against the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

The common denominators?

Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger -- the guys at quarterback.

When the Browns have faced an experienced and talented quarterback, they dial back the pressure. There’s two ways to look at this of course. Pressuring an experienced guy only gives that guy more room to throw. The flip side is pressuring him disrupts the passing game, which is what Horton and the Browns tried to do with the less talented guys.

Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant said after the game the Browns did not blitz as much, and added: “Ray makes the calls and I do my job.”

The Browns' thinking revolved around the Steelers getting rid of the ball quickly. Roethlisberger worked a lot from the shotgun, threw several quick screens to receivers and held the ball less than he got rid of it.

That puts the onus on the secondary and linebackers to disrupt routes, and to make tackles to prevent yards after catch.

Neither happened Sunday, at least not well.

The end result of using two down linemen meant somebody would not have as much playing time. That fell on Phil Taylor, who was on the field for just 25 of the 69 defensive snaps. The majority of the play went to Bryant (44 plays) and Ahtyba Rubin (39 plays). Taylor’s plays were the third highest among linemen.

Which, combined with the bad losses the past two weeks, may have contributed to Taylor’s silence the past two days.

Sunday he said he was “not answering any questions” before he left the locker room.

Monday, Taylor walked to his locker, grabbed some items and strolled right past a waiting group of reporters.

It should be said out of fairness to Taylor that he’s been one of the more cooperative and accessible players for the Browns this season.

“I’m sure,” said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, “a lot of guys are frustrated.”