|Cowboys QB Tony Romo is sacked by Browns DE Frostee Rucker (92) at Cowboys Stadium. (AP)|
If a dollar were donated to the United States government every time someone has uttered that football games are won in the trenches, we could wipe out the national debt.
The Browns, however, worked to dispute that old chestnut Sunday in Dallas. They dominated on both lines. They sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo seven times. They kept counterpart Brandon Weeden upright. They shut down the Dallas ground game. They opened up holes for their own running backs most of the game. Yet they lost, 23-20.
Only the Browns, right?
Twelve penalties, including seven on defensive backs, spelled doom against the Cowboys. But the fierce pass rush proved encouraging. The game marked the 2012 debut of the starting defensive tackle tandem of Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor, both of whom have missed significant time with injuries. The Browns pressured Romo both inside and out. They hope to do the same against the visiting Steelers on Sunday.
"One of the most damaging things about a pass rush when you have big, physical guys [in the middle] is the push in the quarterback's face," said coach Pat Shurmur. "When the pocket collapses in front of him, that's what restricts the quarterback's vision, more than what he knows is happening off the edges."
The seven sacks in Dallas pushed the Browns season total to 27, which ranks eighth in the NFL. Rubin credited the explosion to "fresh legs" made possible by the overall health of the line and a deep rotation, as well as defensive coordinator Dick Jauron for calling "a lot of great blitzes."
The possibility of a repeat against Pittsburgh is buoyed by the absence of elusive quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns registered seven sacks against Romo, who is well-versed at escaping the pocket. That bodes well when considering Steelers third-string quarterback and Sunday starter Charlie Batch is fairly immobile.
The Pittsburgh offense has grown increasingly dependent on the ground game and short passes. That is expected to continue on Sunday. Browns middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said he anticipates the Steelers will run the ball frequently, but he doesn't dismiss the capabilities of Batch. He also doesn't believe either team will be lighting up the scoreboard.
"We're going to have to put nose to nose -- this is going to be a grit and grind game," he said. "They don't like us and we don't like them."
Flag flap: The Browns apparently have no intention of cancelling their controversial white flag promotion. Fans entering the game Sunday will be given white flags with a Browns helmet emblazoned on them.
White flags, of course, symbolize surrender. Fans and media members have been incredulous about how such an idea was hatched. The players are chiming in as well.
"I try not to get caught up in what's going on outside, but I'm not a fan of the white flag," Jackson said.
Placekicker Phil Dawson declined to express his view, but his words and the smirk on his face told the story.
"I'll let D'Qwell speak for all of us on that," he said. "My mom said growing up that if you don't have anything good to say, it's best not to say it. This is one of those times."
Healthier secondary: Cornerback Joe Haden said he's "ready to go" against Pittsburgh and is feeling "about 90 percent" after missing the game in Dallas with an oblique injury. He has practiced throughout this week. Fellow cornerback Buster Skrine said he expects to play as well after passing tests for a concussion he suffered against the Cowboys.
The decision to sit Haden last Sunday was made right before the game.
"I was real close," he said. "I didn't do any active stuff. I went out early with a coach and was running around. The first time I really went for a ball I said, 'Oh [darn].' I wasn't quite ready. Coach was like, 'Look, Joe, you know we need you to cover Dez [Bryant] and if you can't do that then just shut it down.'"
Sheard on the Steelers line: Defensive end Jabaal Sheard believes the Steelers offensive line seeks to intimidate its foes.
"They try to fight and bully you," he said. "It's a big line. They're tough. They like to get you after the whistle and get inside your head."
Bits and pieces: Shurmur said he watched some of the Detroit-Houston game on Sunday, but did not see the play in which Lions coach Jim Schwartz tossed the challenge flag, thereby nullifying the review of a bad call that resulted in a Texans touchdown. "I'd be the last one to be critical of another coach," Shurmur said. "We do know that when there's a scoring play or turnover, it automatically gets challenged." ... The Browns defense has yielded less than 300 yards in each of the last four games.
Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from CBSSports.com RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.