To kick or not to kick to Josh Cribbs when the Steelers try to beat the Browns for the 15th time in the last 16 meetings between the AFC North rivals.
That is the question Mike Tomlin will have to answer before Thursday night — if he hasn’t already done so.
“We cannot let Josh Cribbs do to what he’s done to us time and time again in the past,” Tomlin said. “We’ve been dead Indians in his cowboy movie enough.”
Indeed, three of Cribbs’ eight kickoff returns for touchdowns have come against the Steelers. That is why Tomlin, during his weekly news conference Monday, left open the possibility of kicking away from Cribbs.
There should not even be a question of what the Steelers should do when it comes to the one Cleveland skill player that inspires any kind of fear in the opposition.
Make Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis or one of the Browns’ no-name wide receivers beat you. Don’t make it any easier for an offense that should be no match for the Steelers’ defense by giving it a couple of short fields if not a touchdown.
If the Steelers do challenge Cribbs -– and they won’t kick it right to him if they go that route –- they may have the player to neutralize him in Curtis Brown.
Brown leads the Steelers with 13 special-teams tackles, 11 of which have been unassisted. Only three other Steelers have more than five tackles on special teams.
Special teams coordinator Al Everest lavished praise on the rookie cornerback after the Steelers’ 35-7 win over the Bengals.
Tomlin did the same at his news conference, and he rarely has much to say about first-year players.
“He’s got a different sense of urgency than most,” Tomlin said of Brown. “His hair is on fire. This guy competes when he’s in position to make plays. He competes when he is in less than ideal positions, double-teams.
“He’s an exciting young guy, not only because of what he’s doing on special teams, but generally, if a guy plays with that kind of urgency and that kind of production on special teams, it’s a window to what he may be capable of doing at some point on offense or defense. We are excited about him, but I think we are getting similar efforts and contributions from Cortez Allen.”