PITTSBURGH - Derek Anderson has seen better days - like the ones he enjoyed as the Browns` starting quarterback this season prior to Sunday.
After resembling a Pro Bowler since taking over for Charlie Frye in Week 2, Anderson finally looked like the castoff Cleveland acquired from the Ravens as the Browns suffered a disappointing 31-28 loss to the Steelers.
Entering the game among the league leaders in a number of categories, including touchdown passes, passing yards and overall rating, Anderson`s head returned from the clouds a bit with a performance - 16-of-35 passing for 123 yards - that seemed more worthy of a backup, a role he has held for the majority of his NFL career.
Anderson didn`t throw an interception, but he was off the mark on too many occasions, and his inability to move the offense in the second half was a major factor in the Browns` ninth straight loss to the Steelers.
"Bad," Anderson said when asked how he played.
Good and bad would have been a better assessment.
Through the first half, Anderson was still in his season-long groove, completing 6 of 10 passes for 80 yards and three touchdowns to help the Browns to a 21-9 lead.
But with the Steelers making adjustments in the locker room, the University of Oregon product was a different player in the second half, connecting on just 6 of 19 passes for 43 yards - the majority of which came on Cleveland`s fruitless final drive.
Before leading the Browns to a lengthy field-goal try on Cleveland`s final possession, Anderson completed just three second-half passes for 11 yards. He led the Browns to a miniscule two first downs in the second half, both on the last drive, looking unnerved at times as Cleveland`s lead dwindled.
"Their defense is pretty good. That was it," said Browns coach Romeo Crennel of the difference in Anderson`s two halves. "We just weren`t as efficient overall as we have been in the past. We were not as poised because we did not operate effectively."
"It`s hard to hold your composure. And he did hold his composure," Browns offensive lineman Ryan Tucker said of Anderson. "When you`re not moving the ball, you get a little frustrated. You want to try to clear your head and go one play at a time, but it`s tough sometimes."
It came as no surprise that Anderson`s mortality was on display for one of the few times this season against a Pittsburgh defense that ranks at the top of the league. The Steelers` blitzing package and aggressive style have made plenty of quarterbacks look bad.
"They were playing good defense," Anderson said. "I missed some throws. We just didn`t get into the same rhythm we had in the first half."
Though the Browns were able to stretch the field in the game`s opening 30 minutes, those opportunities vanished in the second half, according to Anderson, as Pittsburgh dropped its linebackers deeper in coverage and allowed the short pass.
"I think everybody just paid a little bit more attention to detail and paid a little more attention to doing their job," said Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans. "I think the coverage got a little tighter. I think we were more gap-sound.
"We knew they were going to try to run the ball in the second half with Jamal Lewis, especially with the lead. We just executed our defense."
Time to throw wasn`t a problem for Anderson, who was not sacked, and, according to official statistics, did not take a hit all game. But it did play a part in foiling his attempt for redemption on his team`s final drive.
With the Browns taking possession on their own 33-yard line with 1:04 to play, Anderson completed three passes to march Cleveland to Pittsburgh`s 35. But without a timeout, the Browns were forced to let Phil Dawson try a 52-yard field goal after Anderson spiked the ball to stop the clock on third down.
The kick fell just short.
"I think how it turned out, the last two-minute drill, we ran out of time," Tucker said.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.