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Old 09-14-2008, 04:09 AM   #1
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Default Steelers have lease on Turnpike neighbors

Steelers may not own Browns, but they've got one heck of a lease on their Turnpike neighbors
Sunday, September 14, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the old days, broadcasters would talk about the hatred between the fans of these two teams, and writers would recall the classic games and dirty plays that took place when the Steelers and Cleveland Browns met.

Since the Browns entered the NFL in 1950, they've played the Steelers twice annually except when there were no Cleveland Browns in the seasons of 1996-1998. Indeed, there were classics, and the best team did not always win.

Not any more. Since the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, they've been failures for the most part, and the Steelers have taken advantage of it. Only once in nine seasons has Cleveland made the postseason, and the Browns lost that playoff game in grand style by collapsing in the fourth quarter in Heinz Field after the 2002 season.

That game is part of the nine-game winning streak the Steelers have against the Browns, among the 15 times the Steelers conquered them in the past 16 games. Tonight, they will try to make it an even 10 when they play the Browns at 8:15 in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Steelers-Browns is not so much a rivalry anymore as it is a smackdown.

Who knows this better than Orpheus Roye? Once a Steelers defensive end, he left as a free agent in 2000 and spent the past eight seasons in Cleveland, a witness to all but one season of the New Browns' franchise history. He returned as a backup defensive end with the Steelers in August with a better sense of what it's like on the other side than anyone else in their locker room.

"It's more of a desperation over there," Roye said of the feelings in Cleveland before this game, "where over here it's more like just getting the job done."

Roye returned to the Steelers since Aug. 17. He was a starter for the Browns from 2000-07, although he was limited to six starts last season. They released him in February before having to pay him a $1.5 million roster bonus.

He was part of the Steelers' 43-0 victory to welcome the Browns back into the NFL in the first game of 1999. Then, he helped the Browns beat the Steelers in Cleveland Stadium in 2000, 23-20, with nine tackles and two quarterback pressures. It was the only time in nine games against the Steelers in Cleveland that the New Browns have won.

"It's a hump that's been hard to get over," Roye said. "Since I've been over there, we only beat Pittsburgh [in Cleveland] one time. It's a thorn in your side, and you can't seem to get it out, you know?"

No, but former Browns do.

"Reasons?" wondered Nick Eason, a Steelers defensive end since last season, with the Browns the previous three. "I just think this team has a lot of camaraderie, familiarity. Guys have been playing together, there's a lot of consistency. If you look at Cleveland, there's a lot of changes every year. defensively or offensively. Here, we had time to bond together. There are a lot of reasons here: great players, team camaraderie, unselfishness, guys are patient with coaching, good ownership ..."

The Steelers, taking their cue from coach Mike Tomlin Tuesday, tried to build the Browns up all week. Many winced when asked if they own the Browns.

Defensive end Brett Keisel paused and looked at such a questioner as if he were being force-fed cactus.

"No," he finally blurted after a long pause.

Tackle Willie Colon reminded everyone that the Steelers last year were supposed to beat the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, too, and did not.

"You can't take any team lightly in this league," Colon insisted. "We got kicked in the butt so many times. We went to New York and lost up there, we went down to Arizona and should have beat them. At the end of the year, Baltimore was on one leg, and we lost to them."

It might be instructive for them to know, also, that whenever they lost to the Browns, the Steelers have not made the playoffs. That's held true since Cleveland's football comeback in 1999.

The Browns, after losing their first game back to the Steelers, 43-0, pulled off a shocking, 16-15 victory that 1999 season in Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers finished 6-10. The Browns sacked Kent Graham late in Cleveland the following year to thwart any field goal try and won their second in a row against the Steelers, 23-20. The Steelers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. And the Browns humiliated them, 33-13, in Heinz Field in 2003, when the Steelers went 6-10.

"It's very important,'' Keisel said of the early showdown. "We think our division is very tough and to be able to win these early games is crucial when you come into November and December. So, yeah, this is an extremely important game."

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Old 09-14-2008, 06:27 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers have lease on Turnpike neighbors

Keisel is right we need to win the early games and beat the divisonal opponents so we can rest some starters come late november and december.
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