BEREA - Three down.
Next up…Bruce Gradkowski.
It looks more and more as though the Browns will start their fourth different quarterback of the season this Sunday against the AFC North Champion Steelers.
Then again, the bar hasn’t been set too high as the Browns haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in five games.
Romeo Crennel was asked if Gradkowski would start against the Steelers as Ken Dorsey will miss practice Wednesday with a mild concussion and a rib injury. The Browns are not practicing on Christmas leaving Friday as the only day left of practice this week. Typically, Crennel doesn’t play a player who hasn’t practiced the whole week.
“Probably,” Crennel said when asked about Gradkowski starting. “There’s probably a pretty good chance.”
Gradkowski (6-1, 220)hasn’t started an NFL game since Nov. 19, 2006 against the Redskins. He is 3-8 in his career starting and is 190-of-352 for 1791 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His career rating is 65.0. He was 2-of-5 for 8 yards with an interception in relief of Dorsey last Sunday.
“I feel very confident where I’m at with the offense and am comfortable grasping the offense,” Gradkowski said. “It’s day-to-day with Ken, but if my number is called, I’ll be ready.”
Gradkowski grew up in Pittsburgh and played high school ball at Seton-LaSalle High School where he threw for 2,978 yards with 30 touchdowns as a senior. His passing yardage was the most in the conference’s 87-year history, surpassing prominent players who had played in the same conference such as Hall of Famers George Blanda, Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Dan Marino.
Gradkowski was asked about his high school accomplishments, but he was humble about them. He also was asked if he waved terrible towels growing up in Pittsburgh. For both questions he smiled and said, “No comment.”
What he did say was that he always wanted to play in this type of game.
“It will be a hostile environment,” he said. “They have great fans, just like we do in Cleveland. I’m looking forward to it after growing up in Pittsburgh. I know about the rivalry and it’s awesome to be going there to play them with the Browns.”
Gradkowski left Pittsburgh and played collegiately at Toledo before being drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth-round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He was released in June 2008 by the Bucs and signed with the Rams in August. The Rams released him at the end of training camp.
“When I knew I was going to play football, I told my friends it would be great to go up against the Steelers,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for me. To be here for four weeks and have a chance to start against the Steelers and their top ranked defense.”
Crennel is confident Gradkowski can step in.
“He’s from Pittsburgh,” he said. “He was down in Tampa Bay and he played down there. His record was 3-8 as a starter in Tampa. He has some limitations height wise and with arm strength but he’s a pretty heady guy. He has always been a pocket passer.
“I think he’s excited about the opportunity to start again in the NFL,” he said. “He’s been working hard since he’s been here and trying to get brought up to speed.”
Crennel said the playbook might be limited for Gradkowski.
“We’ll have to ask him to do the things he’s comfortable with,” he said. “Every situation is different. He was able to make that team and start and hasn’t been able to establish himself anywhere else. He has a chance to establish himself again.”
Romeo’s Quest: Romeo Crennel is 0-7 against the Steelers in his four seasons as coach of the Browns. This might be his last chance to break into the win column and avoid being the only non-interim head coach in Browns’ history to not have beaten the Steelers. Dating back before Crennel, the Browns have lost 10 games in a row to Pittsburgh.
“I haven’t been able to beat Pittsburgh,” he said. “It’s discouraging. It seems we play them close one game and get killed the next time. I’m concerned about going to Pittsburgh.That’s one of the fears I have because we played them close last time.”
The Browns lost 10-6 in the second game of the season.
Crennel doesn’t expect the Steelers to not come after the Browns.
“They’re going to try and win the game, that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said. “Any time you’re dealing with a rivalry, it’s tough. Our team hasn’t been very productive in the rivalry.
“It is somewhat of a mountain to climb because they are pretty good,” he said. “For some reason, we play them decent for one game and keep it close. We have to keep it close all the time. We have made some progress here. Going into the season there was some talk that we could beat Pittsburgh, but going forward as we build, I think we’ll have much more of a chance in the future.”
Crennel expects the Browns to show up. He also added a good line in his answer.
“The guys are in a good frame of mind considering what the season has been, but these guys have continued to fight—with that being said I know what the next question will be—but we will go down to (Pittsburgh) and play hard.
“A lot of people probably think we’re wasting our time going down there, but we’re not.”
If Crennel is let go after the Steelers game, Winslow said he thinks it’s partly on the players.
“We collectively didn’t get it done,” he said. “It’s our job on the field to get it done. The coach can only do so much.”
Wright to IR; TE Cieslak Added: Wright had a rib injury and high ankle sprain that will keep him out for the final game. Crennel said with TE Darnell Dinkins (ribs) questionable is why Cieslak was added.
Injury Update: The following will not practice on Wednesday: TE Darnell Dinkins (ribs), QB Ken Dorsey (concussion), DL Shaun Rogers (ankle), OL Eric Steinbach (back), LB Leon Williams (knee), TE Kellen Winslow (ankle) and P Dave Zastudil (knee).
The AP's Tom Withers relayed to the OBR that WR/KR Josh Cribbs appeared to hurt his ankle during the few minutes of practice that the media is allowed to watch and was helped off the practice field by trainers. The extent or severity of the injury (if any) is not known at this time.
Winslow is holding out hope for Sunday.
“I’m going to try,” he said. “If I can, I will.”
Next Year: The 2009 season for the Browns is close to being set. Besides the normal home and away matchups with the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals the Browns ill travel to Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit and the AFC East third (Miami, New England or NY Jets) or fourth place (Buffalo) finisher. At home, the Browns will play Oakland, San Diego, Green Bay, Minnesota and the AFC South third (Houston)or fourth place (Jacksonville)finisher.