The Pittsburgh Steelers beat up on one young quarterback on Sunday, and they may get a chance to do it again Thursday.
Cleveland’s Derek Anderson could make his first NFL start as the Browns (4-8) and Steelers (5-7) continue a rivalry that has been lopsided in recent years.
Quarterback Charlie Frye injured his right wrist in the first series of Cleveland’s 31-28 overtime win over Kansas City on Sunday, but stayed in the game until halftime. Anderson, who had never thrown an NFL pass and had taken only one snap, took over in the second half and threw two touchdown passes to Steve Heiden in the final 8:55 of regulation to tie the game.
In overtime, Anderson set up Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal with a 33-yard scramble.
“I don’t know where he came from but he showed up and did a good job for us,” coach Romeo Crennel told the Browns’ official website. “Having never thrown a pass in an NFL game to be able to drive down and get two scores and have the game-winning drive, that’s big for a guy.
“He’s confident. He was excited about having the opportunity to play, and then being able to make plays helped his confidence.”
X-rays on Frye’s wrist showed no break, but he is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game. He was kept out of Tuesday’s practice—the club’s only full practice during its short week—and Crennel said that if he is cleared by doctors, he will see how well Frye takes snaps and throws before deciding who will start.
“We’re going to rest him and treat him and see how it is,” Crennel said.
Frye, who completed 11 of 13 passes and threw for one touchdown before leaving Sunday’s game, has completed 63.4 percent of his passes this season while throwing for 10 TDs and 16 interceptions. He has been sacked 43 times, second most in the NFL, behind an injury-depleted offensive line.
“It’s sore and I’m just doing whatever I can to get ready to play,” Frye said. “This is a game I definitely had circled.”
Anderson completed 12 of 21 pass attempts and threw one interception Sunday, and could face a Pittsburgh team that, including playoffs, has won six straight and 12 of 13 against Cleveland. The Steelers beat the Browns 24-20 on Nov. 19 when Willie Parker scored on a shovel pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with 32 seconds left.
“Pittsburgh brings a lot of pressure,” Anderson said. “We just have to deal with it. “Getting the ball out of my hands will be a big thing. I just have to step into my throws.”
Pittsburgh sacked Tampa Bay’s Bruce Gradkowski five times in Sunday’s 20-3 win, holding the rookie quarterback to 175 yards and intercepting him three times.
“When we get a young quarterback against our defense, we feel we have a good chance of messing with him,” said linebacker Joey Porter, who had two sacks. “We felt we could frustrate him and get after him.”
The Steelers, who have won three of four, rebounded nicely from an embarrassing 27-0 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 26 that receiver Hines Ward called “the worst ever.” However, Pittsburgh has been all but eliminated from the playoff race, spoiling its chance to defending its Super Bowl title.
The Steelers won their last four regular season games last season before their postseason run, and are hoping to do the same this year—but for different reasons. Pittsburgh must win out in order to simply finish with a winning record, and needs to take three of four to avoid their fourth losing season under coach Bill Cowher in 15 campaigns.
“The only thing we can control is how we think and, a lot of times, how you think is how you feel and how you perform,” Cowher said. “We need to look forward rather than get caught up in the (past) results or the big picture.”
The Steelers will need to shore up an offense that has sputtered over the last two weeks if they hope to finish the season strong. Roethlisberger was sacked nine times and threw two interceptions against the Ravens, and completed just 12 of 25 passes for 198 yards while throwing two TDs and one interception on Sunday.
Roethlisberger has thrown an NFL-high 20 interceptions this season and is the first Steelers quarterback since Cliff Stoudt in 1983 to throw that many.
Pittsburgh managed just 21 rushing yards, its lowest total since 1970, against Baltimore and had just 76 on 31 carries against the Bucs.
“We wish we could have put a few more on the board,” Roethlisberger said. “The defense got us the ball a lot, a lot of turnovers. We need to capitalize more on them.”
The Steelers will be shorthanded against the Browns.
Ward missed just his second game to injury in nine seasons Sunday after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week to remove bone fragments, and safety Troy Polamalu did not play because of a sprained knee.
The Browns, meanwhile, will be looking to build on their first OT win since 2002. Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs came a week after an embarrassing 30-0 loss to Cincinnati.
“This was a good team win,” Crennel said. “Good for the fans, good for Cleveland, good for the organization. And we needed it.”