The Browns secondary likely will be looking for redemption Sunday without one of their top veterans.
Cornerback Tramon Williams was diagnosed with a concussion Tuesday and was placed in the league's concussion protocol. His status for Sunday's game against the Steelers has yet to be finalized, but Browns coach Mike Pettine said Williams likely won't be available against one of the NFL's top passing attacks.
Without Williams, the Browns will pick from a mix of Charles Gaines, Johnson Bademosi, Justin Gilbert, Pierre Desir and K'Waun Williams to fill out its two traditional cornerback spots. Safety Tashaun Gipson is also capable of playing some snaps at cornerback, Pettine said.
"It's been tough. We've just got to make adjustments," K'Waun Williams said. "We've got guys that can play, guys that have played already. Just plug and play. Plug another guy in and move on."
Gaines made his NFL debut last month against the Steelers, and it didn't go as hoped for him and the rest of Cleveland's defensive backs. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant combined for 16 receptions, 317 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns also committed multiple, lengthy pass interference penalties.
Gaines has bounced back, received praise from Browns coaches for his unwavering confidence and has started the last three games alongside Williams, occupying the spot previously held by Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, who has been out since early November.
"My main thing is just holding it down for Tramon if he's out this week and doing what he told me throughout the season. Just going out there and doing my job," Gaines said. "I've improved a lot. I'm starting to understand and catching up to game speed. I'm just playing me and doing what I've been doing to get here."
There's no easy answer to containing Brown, who is second to only Julio Jones in receptions (123) and receiving yards (1,647) despite playing four games without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Martavis Bryant (49 receptions, 765 yards, six TDs) and Markus Wheaton (41 receptions, 692 yards, four TDs) haven't had the same consistency as Brown but serve as dynamic complements to Brown in a passing offense that is averaging 283 yards per game.
Asked how the Browns planned to stop Brown, Pettine joked he'd try to play with 12 players.
"You hope that you can contain him and present some looks where maybe they don't want to go toward him but you watch some of the film when he's double covered, ball's still going there anyway and he's still making plays," Pettine said. "He's just kind of in that zone and the quarterback is smart enough to know 'I'm just going to go ahead and throw in his direction and more than likely a good thing's going to happen.'"