Browns' Lewis will test Steelers
Saturday, September 08, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
James Farrior was asked the other day if he knew the age of Jamal Lewis, the former Baltimore Ravens running back who has joined the Cleveland Browns.
"Thirty-one?" Farrior said.
It only seems that way.
Told Lewis turned 28 just last month, Farrior said, "Man, he's got a lot of miles on him."
Indeed, Lewis is just a year older than Steelers running back Willie Parker, even though he has been tormenting the Steelers defense for the better part of this decade.
He was 21 when he became the only rookie other than Tony Dorsett to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,364) for the eventual Super Bowl champion. And he has been part of a Ravens team that has had more recent success against the Steelers than the Browns, winning five of the past seven games.
That is something the Browns are hoping Lewis can provide after signing him to a one-year contract as an unrestricted free agent -- an attitude and formula on how to beat the Steelers.
He will get his first chance in his new uniform at 1 p.m. tomorrow when the Steelers, who have won the past seven meetings with the Browns, open the regular season in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"The hits have taken a toll on him, but he's still a good running back," said Farrior, an inside linebacker and the team's defensive captain. "We know what we're going to get out of Jamal. He's a tough runner. If he's got a hole, he's going to hit it, so we got to do a good job of clogging these holes."
The Steelers have done a good job of clogging a lot of holes, not just against Lewis.
They haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past 25 games, dating to the 2005 season, and have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in their past 50 games, counting playoffs. What's more, they are coming off a season in which they didn't allow a 100-yard performance for only the second time in 37 years.
The last running back to gain more than 100 yards against them was Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts, who gained 124 yards in a Nov. 28, 2005, game in the RCA Dome. Prior to that, no back had rushed for more than 100 yards since Rudi Johnson (123) in Week 4 of the 2004 season
In that time, they have held backs such as LaDainian Tomlinson (twice), Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee, Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber and Fred Taylor under 100 yards.
"It's a mind-set we have," Farrior said. "We enjoy doing it. And it's definitely going to help us win the ballgame."
"We take a lot of pride in shutting down the run," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "That's our main goal up front, to shut the run down and get after the quarterback. That's been our goal ever since I've been here."
"When you do that, coach [Dick] LeBeau can work his magic and make a team one-dimensional," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "With the linebackers, it's a pride thing. You don't want someone else to have a good day on the ground."
Lewis has 30 100-yard games in his career, but only one in 10 games against the Steelers.
That came in the final game of the 2003 season when he rushed for 114 yards on 27 carries, the year he finished with an NFL-best 2,066 yards.
After rushing for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns last season -- his fifth 1,000-yard season in six years -- Lewis reported to the Browns weighing 239 pounds, 11 pounds lighter than last season.
"I have seen flashes from Jamal," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "I am impressed with the way he reported, because his physical condition was good. His weight was down and he showed some burst. We know he is a tough runner who is hard to tackle. I think that is what we are going to see this year."