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Old 12-06-2006, 11:20 PM   #1
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Default The key matchup: 'Droughns' vs. Steelers run 'D'

The key matchup: 'Droughns' vs. Steelers run 'D'

By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, December 7, 2006



Cleveland's leading rusher missed the Browns' 24-20, come-from-ahead loss to the Steelers on Nov. 19 (foot). The Browns got Droughns, 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, back into action Nov. 26 against Cincinnati and back into the starting lineup last Sunday against Kansas City. He'll be a welcome addition in the rematch with the Steelers, although backup Jason Wright did a credible job rushing (18 carries for 74 yards and a 4.1 average) in the first meeting for Cleveland. Wright, a second-year pro, is almost as big (5-10, 210), but Droughns is the guy with two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume (1,240 yards in 2004 for Denver, 1,232 in 2005 with Cleveland).


Although the Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Nov. 28, 2005 (Edgerrin James had 124 yards on the ground in Indy), their run defense sprang a few cracks Nov. 26 in Baltimore. The Ravens' Jamal Lewis bullied the Steelers for 61 yards on 13 carries (a 4.7 average) in the first half, and the Steelers consider Droughns to be in Lewis' mold, a runner who attacks with power and moves piles. They've contained Droughns in three career meetings (91 total yards), but Droughns has earned their respect, from coach Bill Cowher on down, and has also hurt the Steelers with 96 receiving yards and a TD in those three games.


Who plays quarterback for the Browns (starter Charlie Frye or backup-turned-savior Derek Anderson) means nothing to the Steelers. Stuffing the run and putting the Browns quarterback in difficult situations, predictable passing downs on which the Steelers can attack, means everything. To do that, the Steelers will have to fly to the football and gang-tackle. Nose tackle Casey Hampton, as always, will be critical to the success of the run defense. Inside linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote were dominating last Sunday against Tampa Bay. They'll have to be again, as keeping the score down figures to be critical with the Steelers' receiving corps being patched together minus Hines Ward and Cedric Wilson. EDGE: STEELERS


The same plan of attack worked perfectly, as the Steelers stuffed Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams (11-27, 2.5 average) and feasted on inexperienced QB Bruce Gradkowski (three interceptions, five sacks) in a 20-3 laugher over Tampa Bay. EDGE: STEELERS

-- By Mike Prisuta


Last edited by 83-Steelers-43; 12-06-2006 at 11:27 PM.
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