NFL Nation: Syndric Steptoe

Browns, Steelers make early cuts

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
5:09
PM ET
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns moved one step closer to trimming their final rosters down to 53 players Friday evening.

Pittsburgh announced 10 cuts. They included receiver Brandon London, running back Justin Vincent, linebacker Renauld Williams, defensive tackle Scott Paxson, long snapper Matt Stewart, safety Justin Thornton, offensive linemen Dorian Brooks and Kyle Jolly, and tight ends Sean McHugh and Eugene Bright.

The Browns released six players: cornerback Coye Francies, tight end Joel Gamble, offensive linemen Casey Bender and Joel Reinders, and receivers Syndric Steptoe and Jake Allen.

Final cuts have to be made by 6 p.m. Saturday.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

In a division filled with quality defenses, it was only fitting that a young, up-and-coming linebacker caught the most attention of his AFC North peers.

In the closest vote of the entire player survey, Cincinnati Bengals second-year linebacker Keith Rivers edged linebacker Lawrence Timmons of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn by one vote to become the 2009 pick for breakout player.

This offseason, ESPN.com granted anonymity to 32 players -- eight from each AFC North team -- on select topics that will be revealed throughout July. The players surveyed could not vote for themselves or their teammates.

AFC North Breakout Player
As voted by 32 anonymous players in the division:
Player Pos. Team Votes
1. Keith Rivers LB Bengals 6
(Tie) 2. Lawrence Timmons LB Steelers 5
Brady Quinn QB Browns 5
4. Brian Robiskie WR Browns 3
(Tie) 5. D'Qwell Jackson LB Browns 2
Chris Henry WR Bengals 2
Joe Flacco QB Ravens 2
(tie) 8. Cedric Benson RB Bengals 1
Limas Sweed WR Steelers 1
Eric Wright CB Browns 1
Rey Maualuga LB Bengals 1
Carey Davis FB Steelers 1
Santonio Holmes WR Steelers 1
Syndric Steptoe WR Browns 1
* Note: Players surveyed could not vote for themselves or teammates.

Rivers led an extremely diverse group of breakout players with six votes, while Timmons and Quinn received five votes apiece. An astounding 14 different players were selected, which was the most of any survey question. They ranged from all different positions such as receivers linebackers, tailback, and even a fullback (Carey Davis of Pittsburgh).

But in the end, Rivers stood atop the list.

"It means a lot," Rivers told ESPN.com after learning of the results recently in Bengals minicamp. "I think it means players felt I was doing well, even though it was only through seven games. It's great to know that I had an effect on the guys in this league that I play against, and I just hope to build on that."

So far, defensive players have dominated this year's AFC North survey. In addition to Rivers, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu were voted by opponents as the best all-around and smartest player in the division, respectively.

The definition of a breakout player can vary. So ESPN.com did not preclude anyone from being chosen for this particular category. For instance, if a player surveyed thought Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be considered a breakout player, despite two Super Bowl victories, he went on the list.

 
  Tom Hauck/Getty Images
  Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers had his rookie season cut short by a broken jaw.

This explains several votes for players such as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who broke through last year in leading his team to the AFC title game, or Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes, who was the Super Bowl XLIII MVP in February. But minus those two exceptions, AFC North players were pretty unified across the board on what they considered a breakthrough season.

In 2008, Rivers broke his jaw in the seventh game, which ended his first NFL season. At the time of his injury, Rivers was a candidate for defensive rookie of the year honors and finished with 37 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble.

Rivers got to play every team in the division once last season, which was enough to earn the respect of his peers.

"He's solid," said one rival player who voted for Rivers. "I think this could be a good year for him."

Other notable players who received multiple votes included another young linebacker in Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson (2), who led the NFL in tackles last season, and a pair of receivers in Brian Robiskie (3) and Chris Henry (2).

Said one future opponent of the rookie Robiskie: "He's a polished receiver and his dad [Terry] being a coach will help his learning process."

Another AFC North player had an even bigger projection for Henry.

"I bet he gets 1,000 yards this year," the player said confidently.

AFC, NFC Breakout Players
ESPN.com's NFL experts have teamed up to examine "The State of NFL Nation," a weeklong look at the biggest questions facing the league. In this installment, we take on 2009 breakout stars.
AFC | NFC

Overall, every division team had at least one representative. The Browns had the most players selected for this particular category with five. But the fact that 14 players total were chosen for this survey question also highlights the depth of young players in the AFC North.

"It's great because I think it brings more competition to our division," Rivers said. "I think this is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, and with the continued young, great players that we're getting in this division it makes it that much better."

First impressions of Quinn

November, 6, 2008
11/06/08
8:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Browns quarterback Brady Quinn is making his first NFL start tonight against the Denver Broncos.

Our first impression is that Quinn is showing some good signs and yet a little rust to start the game. His first throw was a shade off to the right of tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., and Quinn's second completion on third-and-8 was a 7-yard pass to Syndric Steptoe, which showed they haven't had much time to work together this week.

But Quinn looked much better in his second series with an 18-yard pass to receiver Donte' Stallworth, which helped set up a touchdown drive that tied the game at 7-7. He hit Winslow on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to tie the game.

Through two offensive series, Quinn is 3-for-4 for 30 yards and a touchdown. So far he looks poised and doesn't seemed fazed by the situation.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

CLEVELAND -- As we first warned you Friday afternoon, Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman will not play against the Browns today. Newman is still recovering from a groin injury that he suffered early in training camp, and I'm told he's still not able to accelerate. Owner Jerry Jones had already come out and said that cornerback Adam Jones would start in Newman's place.

For the Browns, it's no surprise that wide receiver and return man Josh Cribbs will sit out today's game with a high ankle sprain. Syndric Steptoe will take his place on kick and punt returns. The Browns are also without starting right guard Rex Hadnot and free safety Brodney Pool. They'll be replaced by Seth McKinney and Mike Adams.

Here are the Cowboys' full list of inactives: WR Sam Hurd, WR Miles Austin, S Courtney Brown, CB Newman, G Kyle Kosier, G Montrae Holland, T Doug Free, LB Anthony Spencer.

Browns inactives: QB Ken Dorsey (emergency), Cribbs, Pool, Kris Griffin, Hadnot, DL Ahtyba Rubin, OL Ryan Tucker, TE Martin Rucker.

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