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Steelers 31, Browns 0

Pittsburgh - There are two ways to look at the Browns' 31-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Yippee, the season of great disappointment is over.

Now, yikes, the next rebuilding project is just beginning.

Before the game was even finished, General Manager Phil Savage knew he had been fired by owner Randy Lerner.

Savage returned to Cleveland by car while the rest of the Browns' contingent bused home.

Lerner did not attend the game. A source said Lerner was lining up interviews with Bill Cowher and other coaching candidates - including at least two minorities to comply with the NFL's "Rooney Rule."

Lerner is expected to meet with coach Romeo Crennel this morning and deliver the news that he will not be retained as head coach. The Browns denied an ESPN report that Crennel was fired Sunday night.

The Browns suffered their second shutout loss in a row and failed to score a touchdown by run or pass for the sixth consecutive game. That 24-quarter drought is an NFL record, surpassing the 1974 Bears, who went 22 straight quarters without an offensive TD.

Crennel wrapped up an 0-8 record against the archrival Steelers - the only full-time Browns coach to fail to win a game against them in 114 meetings of the franchises.

The loss was the fourth shutout for the Browns in Crennel's 64 games. They finished this season 4-12.

Their 24-40 record under him was worse than the 25-40 four-year record posted by the Butch Davis regime, which included one playoff appearance.

Nevertheless, Crennel maintained after the game, "Right now, it's my job, and I plan to keep the job."

In the locker room, players pledged their love and support of Crennel.

Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley said: "It's been great playing for him. I have nothing but good things to say about him."

Linebacker Andra Davis said, "I think it's very unfair he's taking all the blame for this year."

Specialist Josh Cribbs said, "You can't blame a coach for players not doing what they're told to do."

Running back Jamal Lewis, who surpassed 1,000 yards with a 94-yard rushing performance, said: "I would hate that [for Crennel to be fired]. I'd like to go out and fight for him."

All of that support, of course, fell on deaf ears after the Browns completed arguably their worst season since their expansion rebirth in 1999.

After thinking they had turned the corner with a 10-6 season in 2007, they stumbled to one of the worst records in the NFL. They will own the fifth pick in the April draft.

"I don't think anyone saw this coming," Wimbley said of the team's demise.

The Browns had no prayer of competing with the Steelers on Sunday, even after Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game with a concussion on a hit by Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson with 1:48 to play in the second quarter.

Roethlisberger brightened the hushed crowd with a thumbs-up sign as he was taken off the field on a stretcher.

Roethlisberger was taken to a hospital for observation. The Steelers had no immediate update on his condition.

Byron Leftwich relieved Roethlisberger and completed a 10-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers a 14-0 halftime lead.

That was insurmountable for the Browns, of course, who were relegated to starting their fourth quarterback of the season, Bruce Gradkowski. He joined them only three weeks ago after being out of the NFL since July.

In a performance that will not earn him the nickname "the Polish Rifle," Gradkowski completed his

first three passes of the game, then hit only three of his last 14 throws for 1 yard. For the game, Gradkowski was 5-of-16 for 18 yards and threw two interceptions, including one returned 32 yards for a touchdown by Tyrone Carter, for a passer rating of 1.0.

Running back Jerome Harrison was the team's leading receiver with two catches - for minus-1 yard. Dont? Stallworth, Martin Rucker, Braylon Edwards and Charles Ali each had one catch.

"It was tough, not only trying to go against their defense but our offense at the same time, considering I haven't been with them too long," Gradkowski said. "We were doing some things good on offense for a while."

The only scoring chance the Browns had was a 53-yard field goal try by Phil Dawson that drifted wide left in the first quarter. Crennel disdained to go for the first down on fourth-and-3 from the Steelers' 36.

The Browns' 126 offensive yards were not among the franchise's five-lowest outputs of all time, according to records in the team media guide.

"We're down to our fourth quarterback. What did you expect?" exclaimed Cribbs, who threw two passes and completed one - his first official completion in an NFL game.

Despite their 11th loss in a row to the Steelers and 17th in the past 18 meetings, Cribbs maintained the gap between the teams was "like this," he said, holding his forefinger and thumb about an inch apart.

"If you think it's big, you're crazy," Cribbs said.

Punter Dave Zastudil said: "I just know we have the potential to bounce back next year. Four-and-12 should be all the motivation you need. We've got to get that fight back in us."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: tgrossi@plaind.com, 216-999-4670


O for Pittsburgh

When coach Romeo Crennel was hired, one of his most important assignments was to beat the Steelers. Four seasons later, he still hasn't beaten Pittsburgh. That's not a good way to build job security. Here are Crennel's results against the Steelers. (Home games in bold.)

Date Result

Nov. 13, 2005 Lost, 34-21

Dec. 24, 2005 Lost, 41-0

Nov. 19, 2006 Lost, 24-20

Dec. 7, 2006 Lost, 27-7

Sept. 9, 2007 Lost, 34-7

Nov. 11, 2007 Lost, 31-28

Sept. 14, 2008 Lost, 10-6

Dec. 28, 2008 Lost, 31-0


2008 Browns results





Aug. 7


Lost, 24-20

Aug. 18

At Giants

Lost, 37-34

Aug. 23

At Lions

Lost, 26-6

Aug. 28


Lost, 16-10


Date Opponent Result

Sep. 7


Lost, 28-10

Sep. 14


Lost, 10-6

Sep. 21

At Ravens

Lost, 28-10

Sep. 28 At Bengals Won, 20-12

Oct. 5

BYE Week

Oct. 13 Giants Won, 35-14

Oct. 19

At Redskins

Lost, 14-11

Oct. 26 At Jaguars Won, 23-17

Nov. 2


Lost, 37-27

Nov. 6


Lost, 34-30

Nov. 17 At Bills (a) Won, 29-27

Nov. 23


Lost, 16-6

Nov. 30


Lost, 10-6

Dec. 7

at Titans

Lost, 28-9

Dec. 15

At Eagles

Lost, 30-10

Dec. 21


Lost, 14-0

Dec. 28

At Steelers

Lost, 31-0

Wins in BOLD

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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