PITTSBURGH -- The Cleveland Browns started the 2012 regular season with nearly half the roster comprised of rookies and second-year players.
Of the 53 men active for the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 9, 25 were first or second-year players. In Sunday’s final game, a 24-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Browns had 27 first and second-year players on the active roster, many of whom played key roles either as a starter or reserve.
Following the game, coach Pat Shurmur looked back at the journey the younger Browns took this season.
“What I would say at the end of the season is the future’s bright for that group of guys,” Shurmur said. “That’s what my thoughts are like as we get ready for an offseason, like 19 other teams.”
Shurmur said he formulated that assessment because of how the younger players developed over the 17-week regular season and earlier in the year during organized team activities, as well as training camp.
“I’ve watched the way these guys have improved; I’ve watched the way they’ve come together as a team; I’ve watched how close we were in a lot of these instances to winning these games. It’s amazing what you learn and there’s a huge improvement between the first time you do something and the second.
“They get to sit back after having watched themselves compete. All winter, they can sit back and look at the things they did right. I guarantee every one of them will watch tape and say, ‘Gosh, darn it. What was I thinking?’ Then, it won’t show up again. That’s where that huge improvement comes from.”
“I was proud of the focus, the effort and the commitment,” Dawson said. “To have so many young guys accept their roles and be professional and be willing to learn from the older guys, that’s been a real enjoyable part of the season.”
Second-year defensive end
“A lot was expected of us and we started winning,” Sheard said. “People really believed that we could do it and we all believed, in the locker room, that we could do it.”
HOLDING PITTSBURGH AT BAY
The Steelers combined to rush for 91 yards and no touchdowns on 28 carries, just 3.3 yards per attempt. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 15 of 23 attempts for only 134 yards. But he did throw for three touchdowns.
Shurmur was pleased with the defensive effort the Browns had in limiting the Steelers to 212 yards of total offense, as well as a five for 13 total in third-down conversions.
“I thought we controlled the game on defense,” Shurmur said. “We held the Steelers to only about 200 yards, less than 100 yards rushing and did a good job in third downs.”
RUSHING THE BALL
Several Browns players were unable to finish Sunday’s game due to injuries. Following the game, Shurmur provided initial updates.
DRAFT ORDER SET
Following Sunday’s afternoon games, the NFL set its draft order for the 20 teams that failed to qualify for postseason play. At 5-11, the Browns earned the No. 6 spot in the 2013 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-27 in New York City.