The League

Desmond Bieler
Occasional Blogger, Constant Blowhard

Desmond Bieler

An assistant news editor at The Washington Post

Pittsburgh at Cleveland, Week 2


Sunday, 8:15 p.m.

The Browns were a trendy Super Bowl pick before the season. The Steelers became a trendy Super Bowl pick at about 3 p.m. last Sunday -- right after Ben Roethlisberger tossed his second touchdown pass to Hines Ward, giving Pittsburgh a 35-3 lead over Houston. A few hours later, Cleveland found itself thoroughly outplayed by Dallas, leading to their home fans paying homage to Cowboys cornerback Pacman Jones (we can all agree to still call him that, can't we?) by making it rain ..... boos. And just like that, Cleveland goes from thinking of a trip to Tampa to worrying if it will get blown out again, which would give it an 0-2 start and entire slate of road games to go.

The Browns might perk up their spirits by thinking back to just last season, when the team looked fairly inept in Week 1, then shocked everyone by outscoring the Bengals 51-45, a win that began a stretch of seven victories in 10 games. Of course, it must be recalled that the team against whom the Browns looked so inept was Pittsburgh, and unlike in 2007, quarterback Derek Anderson won't be sneaking up on anybody. (Of course, they could throw a patented Week 2 curveball by giving the start to Brady Quinn, but that's just crazy talk.) But with Anderson throwing to weapons like Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and, if he ever gets healthy, Donté Stallworth, one has to think the offense will come around. Likewise, the special teams will improve, at least in the return game, when Josh Cribbs comes back from a high ankle sprain; he hopes to play as early as this week.

But what's the deal with Cleveland's defense? Coach Romeo Crennel seems to be following in the footsteps of coordinator-turned-AFC North head coaches Brian Billick and Marvin Lewis. Billick was a regarded as an offensive guru, but his Ravens teams were known for being defensively strong, offensively challenged. In a similar, but opposite, way, Lewis earned high marks for coordinating the Ravens defense under Billick, and later the Redskins D, but his Bengals are often high-scoring while rarely stopping anybody. Crennel, a former defensive coordinator who learned at the feet of Bill Belichick in New England, can't seem to translate his presumed area of expertise into on-field results. (In a related development, Billick was fired during after last season and Lewis is on Olsen Twin-thin ice.)

During the offseason, the Browns traded several draft picks to obtain defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, and they had high hopes of finally slowing down opposing offenses. But last week, Dallas amassed 19 plays that went for at least 12 yards. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was pretty much having its way with the Texans. Roethlisberger (13 of 14, 137 yards, 2 TDs) did sustain a shoulder injury in that game but is expected to play this week. Memo to Crennel: Time to start teaching your team how to play defense.

By Desmond Bieler  |  September 11, 2008; 12:00 PM ET  | Category:  Post Gameday Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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