The Browns' reaction after Steelers linebacker James Harrison knocked receivers Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi out of the game with concussions was one of the most surprising aspects of Sunday's 28-10 loss in Heinz Field.
Coach Eric Mangini has been preaching to his team that the player who retaliates is always the one who gets penalized and apparently the message has gotten through. But such violence by Harrison seemed worthy of more than the Browns gave back.
Asked Monday if his team was ''pissed off'' on the sideline, Mangini fired back with the same language. It was perhaps the most venom spewed by Mangini about the Steelers' series.
''I hope they were pissed off prior to that,'' he said Monday. ''We're playing the Steelers. You've got to be pissed off every time you play 'em. You've got to be pissed off every time you line up against 'em or it's going to get ugly. You'd better be ready to do it every week, you'd better be ready to do it against Pittsburgh and you'd really better be ready to do it in Pittsburgh. When you see their uniforms you should be pissed off.''
Mangini related a story that rookie quarterback Colt McCoy told the team about a recent encounter at a local gas station.
''A father asked him to come over and see his sons and he opened the door and two kids in carseats are yelling 'Pittsburgh sucks!''' Mangini said. ''That's how we're bred in Cleveland. That's it. You're either pissed off or you're letting it happen.''
The Browns' lack of venom gave the impression that they were succumbing to the Steelers' domination personified by Akron's Harrison. It looked like the Browns were letting the Steelers win the physical battle.
''I thought there was a lot of physical play on our part. We're not going to come off on the sideline and say, 'Go after their knees' or 'Go after their heads,''' Mangini said. ''I don't think that's how you win the game. The best way to respond is to win the game.
''I'm looking for physical play. We shouldn't need a catalyst for that. It should just be part of how we're built, it's our DNA. That's what should happen every single play, whether it's the receiver, the defensive back, Phil Dawson. If you have a chance to hit him, there should be something with it.''
Browns tight end Ben Watson called for Harrison to be suspended for the hit on Massaquoi. But he didn't consider going after the Steelers in retaliation.
''You want to get even when you know somebody's intent,'' Watson said. ''If Harrison was saying, 'I'm going to knock somebody out, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.' If he was ranting and raving about all these things and then he did it, that's one thing. For it to happen in a football game, things happen, we're not happy about the outcome.
''I'm upset definitely that the rules were broken and it results in Mohamed and Joshua being hurt. But it's not a revenge thing to me because you don't know somebody's intent. That's why you've got the league here, that's why you have the league to make their ruling, to fine him, to suspend him, to do whatever they've got to do.''
Some of the Browns were so robotic in their answers about the incident in the post-game locker room that media members wondered if they'd been told what to say. Public relations department staffers were also listening, as they commonly do.
Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward was fined $15,000 for his Oct. 3 hit on Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley that left Shipley with a concussion. His reticence in discussing the hits and possible suspension Monday seemed to show that Mangini's message has gotten through. Or that the Browns fear Mangini's reaction if they speak up.
"Any time you have teammates get hurt you're going to be upset,'' Ward said. "It's part of the game. Stuff like that happens all the time. You can't do too much about it.''