BEREA, Ohio - The Browns' defence has gone from struggling to staggering.
Cleveland closed its week of practice for Sunday's AFC North matchup against Pittsburgh with 10 defensive players on the injury list.
On Friday, Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden returned to practice after missing two days with a hip injury, raising the possibility he will be available to cover top Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. But Haden's comeback was tempered by linebacker Paul Kruger missing his second straight day with a back "issue" and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin being listed as questionable after injuring his ankle in practice Thursday.
The Browns are already thin on their defensive front after end Phil Taylor underwent knee surgery and Billy Winn was ruled out with a quad injury.
At least there appears to be a chance the Browns will have Haden. He got hurt last week in Cleveland's comeback win at Tennessee but did not miss a snap. Earlier this week, Haden was limited to riding a stationary bike and working with a trainer but on Friday he ran, jumped and backpedalled during the 20-minute portion of practice open to reporters.
Afterward, coach Mike Pettine said it was nice to have Haden back.
"It was good," he said. "He got a little bit of work off to the side. He was limited, very limited. Hopefully he has a good day tomorrow getting some treatment. We're hopeful. It's a game-time decision, but we hope he'll be able to go obviously."
If Haden can't play, Pettine said rookie Justin Gilbert will start. Gilbert has been a major disappointment this season, but the Browns are sticking with the No. 8 overall pick, who had a strong few days of practice.
"He came out and did his job," Pettine said. "He had a great attitude, competed, made some plays. He just raised his level of consistency. He still made some mistakes, but I would say it was his best week of practice."
Kruger's injury is a bit mysterious. Pettine would not offer any details, saying only that it didn't happen at practice or while Kruger was lifting weights.
Kruger has been one of the few bright spots for Cleveland's defence, which has not played up to expectations and enters Sunday's game ranked 31st in yards allowed.
"He's played well," Pettine said. "He was a little bit anxious against Baltimore (his former team) and tried to do a little more than what he needed to. But other than that, I think that he's been real solid for us."
If Kruger is out or limited, Pettine said Eric Martin would get snaps at outside linebacker with Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard.
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