It's rare that we have a separate injury news article, because the Browns have gone through the first five weeks relatively unscathed. But there are some players in serious jeopardy of missing Sunday's game against the Steelers
Phil Taylor is out for sure, after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday morning. Coach Mike Pettine said Taylor's return to play status will be updated in a few weeks.
Things become a little muddier with Billy Winn also missing a portion of Wednesday's practice (quad). If Winn can't go, Pettine indicated John Hughes and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen would probably platoon at defensive end. Both players were inactive against Tennessee, but Pettine has long said the D-line is where the Browns possess the most depth.
The bigger news comes from the secondary. If Joe Haden (hip) misses the Steelers game on Sunday, the trickledown effect will be felt everywhere. The Browns are thrilled with the emergence of undrafted rookie K'Waun Williams, but he will be almost exclusively as the nickel cornerback in the middle.
So that means starting opposite of Buster Skrine on the outside will be a rookie – either first-round pick Justin Gilbert or the undrafted Robert Nelson. Pettine says it's time to stop focusing on where a player was drafted. The best players will play.
"It doesn't matter to us how we acquire guys," said Pettine. "We're going to put guys out there that give us the best chance to win, and if they have to play we're confident that they'll be prepared."
Pettine was quick to say, that doesn't mean the Browns are waving the white flag regarding Gilbert, either.
"Justin's been inconsistent. That's a problem," Pettine said. "There are a lot of things that we need to get right with Justin, but we're confident that we're going to do it. Nobody's bailing on him, and if he's getting some tough love in the DB room, so be it. We all recognize the talent, and he showed for long stretches he can do it. Then, he has his breakdowns. We just have to eliminate those, and that's really indicative of why we are where we are as a defense."
The Browns are remaining "cautiously optimistic" regarding Haden, but the coaching staff is concocting a plan to play Sunday's game without him, just in case.
Joe Thomas was also limited in practice Wednesday, but it's only to rest the seven-time Pro Bowler.