By Christina Rivers
With so many key players suffering from injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made some changes to their lineup in order to be competitive against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Adding depth, the Steelers refuse to look past this weekend’s game in order to be ready to face the Baltimore Ravens once again the following weekend. The Browns are 2-8 overall and 1-3 in the AFC North. Even though the odds favor the Steelers, Cleveland will bring their best game and the Steelers, who will play away from Heinz Field, know the win is not guaranteed.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis put to bed any thoughts that the Steelers will ignore the facts before them. “It’s real important to win this division game,” said Lewis. “Those guys have been playing extremely hard and well even though their record doesn’t match up. They are a great football team and we know that. They are going to come out and give everything they have and we have to be ready to go.”
Byron Leftwich finished the game against the Baltimore Ravens, but he ended up with a rib fracture. Additionally, receiver Jerricho Cotchery also suffered multiple rib fractures. The uncertainty left behind equaled Charlie Batch being available to play from his third-string and only quarterback standing position against Cleveland and Emmanuel Sanders opposite Mike Wallace healthy at wide receiver. The Steelers had already moved receiver David Gilreath onto the active roster and have fellow receivers Derek Moye and Toney Clemons on the practice squad.
On Tuesday, the Steelers hosted four players for workouts. They included: Quarterback Mike Kafka, quarterback Brian Hoyer, receivers Plaxico Burress and Derrick Williams. At the end of the day it was Burress, who once played with the Steelers, and Hoyer who were signed. To make room, the team released linebacker Marshall McFadden who had just been signed to the practice squad last week and running back Baron Batch who has seen little to no playing time during the regular season.
With the roster being rearranged, it makes it even harder for Steelers fans to keep track of what has seemed like a revolving door in 2012. Ziggy Hood has a lumbar spine sprain, Isaac Redman has a concussion and there is no conclusive evidence that Antonio Brown will be ready to play on Sunday.
Coach Tomlin said Tuesday, “We have a myriad of things going on in terms of the health of our own men.” Right now, that is an understatement.
Hoyer last played for the New England Patriots. In 2009, Hoyer was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State. The Patriots released him in August of this year. In 2005, the Spartan quarterback threw seven touchdown passes and tied the Big Ten single-game record. In 2007, Hoyer was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection completing 223 of 376 passes for 2,725 yards and 20 touchdowns. Hoyer was among 26 preseason candidates for the 2008 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Although Hoyer saw very little time with the Patriots due to Tom Brady’s play, Hoyer made 27-of-43 passing attempts (2009-2011) for 286 yards (a 62.8 percentage) and earned himself an 80.2 quarterback rating. Hoyer has a strong arm and good awareness on the field.
Now 35 years old, Burress came back to Pittsburgh to give the Steelers a fighting chance in the passing game. Coach Mike Tomlin said, “He’s in really good physical condition…he’s got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight at break points and obviously he’s no stranger to football.” Burress hasn’t played since the end of the 2011 season with the New York Jets. His 6-foot-5 frame may give Charlie Batch a nice target on Sunday.
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Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.