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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Eric Steinbach”

Browns take a big hit

We all feared the news was coming, but Tuesday’s announcement that Browns guard Eric Steinbach will miss the season after undergoing back surgery still stung.

“He was a starter, so we’re gonna have to make some decisions to see who plays left guard for us,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur told The Beacon Journal. “So we’ll be going through that process.”

That process includes fifth-round draft pick Jason Pinkston, who has played in Steinbach’s absence during the preseason is in the running to take over the starting left guard spot between Alex Mack and Joe Thomas.

Pinkston has impressed the coaches so far.

“I tell you what, Jason Pinkston has made huge, huge strides in three-plus weeks,” Shurmur said. “It’s one thing to be on the perimeter running routes as a rookie and doing it, but when you’re in there in the thick of it, it’s very challenging for those big guys. It really takes development and seasoning and I think he’s making huge progress.”

However, is it realistic to expect a fifth-round draft choice to step in and play effectively? One thing working in his favor is that Pinkston, if he is the starter, will have Thomas to his left and Mack to his right.

“Sometimes I come up there and I freeze a little bit,” Pinkston told The Beacon Journal. “Joe will say, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Then I have Alex to my right. Those guys have been great.”

If Pinkston doesn’t cut it, the Browns may be forced to turn to Oneil Counsins, who the team claimed off waivers from the Ravens this week.

Cousins was the Ravens staring right tackle when the preseason started, but was moved to right guard after a bad game and then demoted. The Ravens then signed Bryant McKinnie, who was cut by Minnesota after showing up after the lockout at almost 400 pounds.

We don’t like where this is headed.

With Steinbach in the lineup, the Browns had a great left side of the line, now you just don’t know. Plus, with Peyton Hillis (252 pounds), Owen Marecic (245) and Montario Hardesty (227) the Browns were building a beefy backfield that would have looked good running behind Thomas and Steinbach.

Now they’re left trying to fill a major hole less than two weeks before the season opener.

***

The Indians didn’t want to let the Browns have all the player transaction news on Tuesday, so they got in on the action by sending Matt LaPorta to AAA Columbus in a move that was, in some ways surprising while also being overdue.

Someone had to go to make room so Jeanmar Gomez could start Tuesday night and LaPorta, the centerpiece of the C.C. Sabathia trade of 2008, earned the short straw with his season-long poor play.

LaPorta is hitting .238 with 18 doubles, 11 homers and 44 RBI in 97 games. He has struck out 79 times, while drawing 20 walks. He heads down I-71 with a .289 on base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage.

The question is, what took so long?

LaPorta hasn’t been good all year; his monthly batting average and OBP are April (.247/.337), May (.240/.301), June (.239/.271), July (.217/.246) and August (.246/.266) all bear that out.

Plus he seems to not have a lot of baseball smarts, especially in the field.

So, to summarize, the Tribe traded Sabathia and wound up with:

  • LaPorta, now in Columbus
  • Michael Brantley, on the disabled list with his .266 average and .318 OBP
  • Rob Bryson, still in the minors
  • Zach Jackson, out of baseball

Boy, that sure worked out well.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Injuries are the word of the day in Cleveland sports.

For the Browns, starting left guard Eric Steinbach and third-down back Brandon Jackson reportedly will be out for a while – and Steinbach may be looking at season-ending back surgery.

Coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer that Jackson will be out “an extended period.”

As for Steinbach … well it doesn’t sound good.

“At this point, he’s going through some treatments that we’re hoping will get him back, and there’s no real final call yet on whether he’ll be back — or when actually,” Shurmur said of Steinbach.

Doctors are trying to determine whether he needs surgery, according to The PD and, if that’s true, he could be put on injured reserve and be out for the season.

If that turns out to be true then what was shaping up to the a true strength for the team – the offensive line – takes a big hit. Shurmur said rookie guard Jason Pinkston has made “tremendous progress” and Pinkston is expected to replace Steinbach if he can’t come back.

The only possible bright side to that scenario is Pinkston would line up between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, two of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, who would be able to help him out.

In addition to Steinbach and Jackson, (take a deep breath) backup linebacker Titus Brown has a high-ankle sprain (apparently he didn’t get the memo that that was last year’s injury), while wide receiver Jordan Norwood (knee), defensive end Marcus Benard (sore shoulder), wide receivers Josh Cribbs (hamstring) and Mohamed Massaquoi (left foot), strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring), free safety Usama Young (hamstring), weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (pinched nerve), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (finger surgery) and linebacker Steven Octavien (unspecified) are also all injured and had limited to no participation in Thurday’s walk through.

Did we mention that the season-opening game against Cincinnati is just over two weeks away?

The news isn’t much better for the Indians, who just keep seeing players fall by the wayside.

Starting pitcher Josh Tomlin and outfielder Michael Brantley were placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday.

“Michael was seen again by Dr. (Thomas) Graham at the Cleveland Clinic,” head trainer Lonnie Soloff told The Beacon Journal. ”It was unlikely that he would be able to play in three to five days, so he was placed on the disabled list.

As for Tomlin, ”Josh experienced discomfort in his right elbow during his last start,” Soloff said. “”After an examination and an MRI, it was determined that he has a sprain of the elbow. He will shut down all throwing for two weeks then be re-examined.”

Boy, we just can’t handle all the good news going around town today.

At least Jim Thome has come back to save us all from … something.

But unless Thome earned his medical degree in the nine years he was away from home, it may not matter much.

Browns blockers earn national ranking

Even with the Cleveland Indians in first place and the NFL lockout rolling along, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to think about the Cleveland Browns.

The Fifth Down blog at The New York Times spent the past week rolling out its Top 10 list for each position and the Browns are well represented – especially on the left side of the offensive line.

Joe Thomas repeated as the top tackle in the NFL, someone who “makes the game look easy, especially in pass protection. Not a mauler, but as reliable a run blocker as you’ll find.”

Alex Mack moved up one spot, and is the second-best center, a “superb technician who holds his own in a phone booth and gets out in front with ease.”

Eric Steinbach dropped two spots at guard, but is still the seventh best as “he was Cleveland’s most impressive lineman in ’10. Can get to virtually any spot on the field.”

The rankings for Thomas, Mack and Steinbach are even more impressive when you take a look at the defensive ranks, which are filled with players that the Browns have to deal with in the division:

  • At defensive tackle, Pittsburgh’s Casey Hamilton (No. 7) and Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata (No. 1) were in the Top 10.
  • At outside linebacker, Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley (No. 7) and Jerome Harrison (No. 1), along with Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs (No. 3) were all Top 10.
  • At inside linebacker, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (No. 8) and Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons (No. 4) were both Top 10.

Gives you a good idea of what the Browns face twice a year and emphasizes the importance of building a solid offensive line.

The Browns were represented on defense, as corner back Joe Haden was mentioned as a player who could make next year’s list as his “uncanny change-of-direction ability alone will make him top-10 before Halloween.”

Now if we could just see these guys on the field again sometime soon, all will be good.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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