CLEVELAND - There are times when you wonder if the Browns' front office was serious in trying to trade receiver Josh Gordon.
How do you deal away the best player on the offensive side, even in return for a first-round draft choice? In the absence of a quality quarterback, Gordon's value shoots upward quicker than the price of gold in unstable economic times.
Yet the rumors, which coach Rob Chudzinski strongly denied, persisted until the clock expired on the trading period last month. The Browns are better off today because they weren't enticed enough to part ways with Gordon.
Despite missing the first two games of the season for a violation of the NFL's drug policy, Gordon has 40 receptions for 751 yards and four touchdowns. He's on track to finish the season with about 1,300 receiving yards, which would break the team single-season record of 1,289 set by Braylon Edwards in 2007.
Gordon talks more about team goals and winning games, but he admits to having a desire to reach the 1,000-yard mark.
"It's something I definitely want to accomplish," Gordon said. "If it could happen, it's great, but more than anything I definitely want wins for this team. If I had 999, I could live with that if we had a winning season and ended up in the playoffs."
Gordon has become the one offensive player that opposing defensive coordinators must target. With an average of 18.8 yards per reception, he has the ability to stretch a defense, which opens up avenues underneath.
The Steelers have undoubtedly circled Gordon as they prepare for Sunday's game at First Energy Stadium.
"The number one thing that stands out about him is his yards per catch," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's a talented up-field runner. He's a big, fluid guy. He's difficult to get on the ground.
"More than anything I compare him to the big-bodied wideouts that coach (Norv) Turner (the offensive coordinator) has had in the past. Guys like Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson that have put up similar numbers when they were in that system."
On paper it would appear that Gordon might have the upper hand against the Steelers secondary, which has allowed some big plays this season. Cornerback Ike Taylor will likely draw Gordon when the Steelers aren't deploying one of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's zone blitzes
"The vertical, uphill passing is something we have to contend with," Tomlin said. "Obviously, it's been an Achilles' heel for us of late. They're doing a nice job of getting the ball down the field. He's big-play capable."
Gordon is in a perfect offense to display his talents. Turner is an advocate of the Air Coryell offense, which is based on vertical passing and a power running game. The vertical part of the equation has worked well at times, but the same can't be said of the struggling ground game.
The opportunity to strike big against the Steelers is enticing to Gordon.
"I know Norv and this offense, and we're going to take those shots," Gordon said. "You can definitely expect at least a few of them."
Especially after what Detroit's Calvin Johnson did to the Steelers last Sunday. Johnson had six receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-27 loss.
"Calvin is a different animal," Gordon said. "The way they work in Detroit, it's magnificent for him. You definitely can see where they can be exploited and opportunities a lot of receivers can make. Hopefully, we can do that."