BEREA: Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson received recognition for helping the Browns finish strong, something they’ve struggled to do for the majority of this season.
On Wednesday, Jackson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Jackson forced Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey to fumble Sunday, and defensive tackle Phil Taylor recovered the ball at the Steelers’ 40-yard line with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter. The takeaway — one of eight compiled by the defense — virtually sealed the Browns’ 20-14 win over the Steelers.
“We all played well from a defensive standpoint,” Jackson said. “We finally finished. We’ve been talking about it all week long, and that’s what I was most proud of.”
Jackson also recovered a fumble in the second quarter and had a team-high nine tackles. The Browns held the Steelers to 49 rushing yards, the fewest allowed by the Browns since 2003.
“Like baseball you’ve got to be strong up the middle,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “The guys in the middle of the defense tend to do most of the communicating and getting everybody lined up. He obviously does that extremely well for us. I just see the way he functions in the building. I see the way he functions in the locker room, and I’ve seen him be a good leader for our guys. I think that’s important as well.”
The AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September 2011, Jackson downplayed his most recent award. He’s more focused on guiding the defense to another stellar showing when the Browns (3-8) visit the Oakland Raiders (3-8) on Sunday.
“I’m not about personal accolades,” said Jackson, who leads the Browns with 85 tackles this season. “It’s great. Don’t get me wrong. I put a lot of pride into what I do, and I’m passionate about what I do. I love what I do, and I love playing here in the city of Cleveland. It’s all about everyone in this locker room and the coaches. It’s a little bit better when you win games and as you guys know, there have been some rocky years at times. We had a great week last week. Hopefully we can carry it over to Oakland, get another win and start a streak here.”
Several Browns defensive linemen didn’t know what to make of the accusation made by Steelers offensive left tackle Max Starks.
After the game Sunday, Starks told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Cleveland came up with some creative things, cutting offensive linemen. I’d never seen that [from Cleveland] in my nine years in the NFL. But it happened, so the Steelers are now going to think it’s all right doing that.”
On Wednesday, Starks became more specific when he told the Tribune-Review that Browns right defensive end Frostee Rucker was cutting the legs out from under the Steelers’ offensive line.
“I don’t understand it,” said Rucker, who played 49 percent of the snaps. “I’ve played for seven years. I never heard that. A defensive line cutting? What does that mean? We just made the plays to win the game.
“We didn’t say anything about holding or anything like that. We made the plays necessary to win the game. That’s what we went out there to do and we did it. We don’t come here with excuses when we lose games.”
Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn also dismissed the claim.
“If anything, we were throwing them to the ground as they were holding us,” Winn said.
Special-teams player Tank Carder apologized again for using an anti-gay slur on Twitter last week. He issued his original apology Monday in tweet.
“I definitely see how much hurt it can cause,” Carder said Wednesday. “When I said it, it was not intended to hurt anyone and it did. I regret it and I deeply apologize. It wasn’t used as a word to hurt people in the first place. It was slang. I can promise you it will never be used again.”
Carder originally stood by the controversial tweet, which was posted Nov. 21 and has since been deleted. In a subsequent tweet, Carder wrote that he would remain “unapologetically strong.”
Shurmur reprimanded Carder, an undrafted rookie from Texas Christian University who declined to reveal whether Shurmur fined him for the incident.
“We’ve addressed the situation,” Shurmur said. “Obviously, it’s very inappropriate. Obviously, he does not speak for me or the Cleveland Browns. That’s very inappropriate and very wrong and not something that we condone.”
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a gay-rights advocate, retweeted a link to a letter written by former TCU football player Vince Pryor that was posted on Outsports.com, which covers gay sports news. Pryor wrote, “I hope you can come to understand the impact your words can have on those who look up to you and the fear and pain your words cause.”
Carder said Pryor also sent him an e-mail. Carder said he intends to write back.
“I read the letter and it was touching,” Carder said. “It’s something that touched home especially being [from] a football player and from the same school and an alumni. After reading that and after all the comments sent to me and after really reflecting on what was said, I deeply apologize for it.”
Wide receiver Josh Cribbs (shoulder/chest), special-teams ace Ray Ventrone (calf) and free safety Usama Young (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.
Ventrone has sat out since Nov. 15, but he might return today.
“I started doing a little bit of running,” he said. “If I’m feeling good [today], I might try to go a little bit [today] in practice. And then from there, I’ll be able to kind of gauge where I’m at.”
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), fullback Alex Smith (chest/ribs) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion) were limited.
Patterson practiced for the first time since he suffered a left high ankle sprain and torn ligament Oct. 7 against the New York Giants. He has missed the past six games, but he hopes to play Sunday.
“I don’t have that call,” Patterson said. “That’s on Shurmur, but I’m preparing as if I’m playing.”
Rucker (shoulder/finger), cornerback Johnson Bademosi (hip/shin), tight end Jordan Cameron (groin), right guard Shawn Lauvao (arm), running back Trent Richardson (chest/rib/finger) and strong safety T.J. Ward (knee) fully participated.
For the Raiders, running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson returned to practice and were limited after missing the past three games with high ankle sprains. Linebackers Miles Burris (illness) and Rolando McClain (not injury related), defensive end Jack Crawford (toe) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring) did not practice.
Contrary to reports, a league source said the Browns did not submit a waiver claim for former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, who was awarded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. … Parker will serve as the Browns’ fourth captain Sunday.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ.