Browns hope to change trend versus Steelers
CLEVELAND – The record pretty much says it all – 15-1.
It’s the mark of success the Pittsburgh Steelers have had with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback in games against the Browns.
That’s Jim Tressel-like against Michigan. It’s the Boston Celtics versus the rest of the NBA in the 1960s.
When the Steelers selected Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft, it didn’t change their rivalry with the Browns. Instead if meant more of the same dominance the Steelers had enjoyed since the mid-1970s, with a slight interruption during Bernie Kosar’s years with the Browns in the late 1980s.
The lone Browns win when Roethlisberger played came on a cold and blustery Thursday night in December 2009. The 13-6 victory may have actually done further harm to the standing of the Browns in the rivalry because it helped solidify another season for then-coach Eric Mangini.
Roethlisberger undoubtedly generates a bit more energy in games against the Browns. The rivalry could have something to do with it, but it’s more because he grew up in Findlay, which is located in the northwestern part of Ohio, and the Browns passed him over in the draft for Miami (Fla.) tight end Kellen Winslow.
“You’re going back home to Ohio to play against kind of a hometown team, so it always adds a little extra motivation,” Roethlisberger said. “They had one of the top 10 picks in the draft that year and they passed over me.
“It’s a rival. It’s an AFC North game. These are fun games.”
Fun for the Steelers, who have a 65-57 advantage (2-0 in playoff games) in a series that dates back to 1950. Since the start of the 1994 season the Steelers have a 30-5 edge, including a winning streak of 12.
No Steelers quarterback has enjoyed more success against the Browns than Roethlisberger, who was injured and sat out a 20-14 Browns win in Cleveland last season. Hall of Fame inductee Terry Bradshaw didn’t have the same level of success against the Browns.
The sad thing is that the Steelers no longer consider the Browns their chief rival. From Chairman Dan Rooney, to the players down to the fans, the majority of Steelers faithful consider the Baltimore Ravens public enemy number one.
It’s hard to tell each year how the Browns approach the rivalry. The players say all the right things when asked about it by the media, but you get the feeling it doesn’t rank with any high school or college rivalries for most of them.
“It took a few years,” Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said of when he realized the importance of Steelers’ week. “The intensity level rose a little bit. By the fourth or fifth year is when I knew coaches and players that have been around this rivalry mean business. I usually have my best games against them from a physical aspect.”
Jackson has seven previous seasons to develop a sense of the rivalry. Getting new players to understand it isn’t always easy. There are probably rookies who don’t know that the old guy who’s hunched over and walking with a limp is Jim Brown. As a native of Sandusky, Ohio and a Browns fan growing up, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski understands what the rivalry once met. He remembers Joe “Turkey” Jones’ slamming Bradshaw to the ground, leaving the quarterback twitching in an incapacitated state for several seconds.
It’s Chudzinski’s mission to get the point across to the players that Sunday’s meeting between the teams is more than just another game.
“I’ve talked to them about that and they can tell this is a rivalry,” Chudzinski said. “I’ll continue to educate them if they don’t understand that.”