Browns motivated by Steelers' stomping

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor


Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio - Like black-and-gold Grinches, the Pittsburgh Steelers stormed into Cleveland last Christmas Eve and stole much more than a football game. They left town with a 41-0 victory - and the Browns' dignity.
"It was the most embarrassing thing football-wise that I've been a part of," Browns safety Brian Russell said Wednesday. "It ruined my holiday. But it wasn't just a loss. It wasn't just a case where we didn't get the job done.
"I was humiliated. We were humiliated."
By the closing seconds of Pittsburgh's Dec. 24 demolition, Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans easily outnumbered the few Cleveland diehards who stayed until the end of a miserable afternoon.
Leigh Bodden only stuck it out only because he had to.
"That's the most lopsided game I've ever played in," the Cleveland cornerback said. "It was unbelievable. In the third quarter, I don't even remember what the score was, but I was like, 'Man, we've still got two quarters left?' It's kind of hard to play hard when the score's like that."
The Browns (3-6) trailed 20-0 at halftime and 34-0 after three quarters. They were outgained 457-186 and rookie quarterback Charlie Frye was sacked eight times and flattened numerous others.
However, even Frye wasn't treated as rudely as one upset and intoxicated Cleveland fan who stupidly ran onto the field and got body slammed to the turf by Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
Cleveland has spent the past 11 months waiting for payback. The Browns get their first chance at some revenge on Sunday when they host the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers (3-6), their bitter rivals who haven't been themselves all season.
Pittsburgh's blowout, which improved the Steelers record to 12-3 vs. Cleveland since 1999 - triggered huge ripple effects along the shores of Lake Erie.
In the immediate aftermath, a front-office power struggle pitting team president John Collins and general manager Phil Savage erupted. Savage, who had been on the job for barely a year, eventually prevailed as Collins resigned.
The Steelers went on to win the championship, and it wasn't long after they hoisted another Vince Lombardi Trophy that the Browns underwent a philosophical shift about their personnel decisions.
Savage wanted players who could not only stand up to the Steelers, but beat them. As he prepared for the NFL draft, Savage said he was looking for players who could "go toe-to-toe with a Joey Porter and Ben Roethlisberger" and bring the Browns up to speed with the guys from the Steel City.
"We've tried to put the most emphasis on Pittsburgh because they were the team that beat us the worst last year," Savage said in April. "We competed in a fairly equal way in certain respects with the other teams in our division. Pittsburgh blew our doors off on Christmas Eve. We don't want to see that happen again."
The Browns didn't spend much time extra time celebrating last Sunday's 17-13 win in Atlanta.
Before he was even dressed in the locker room, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was thinking ahead to this week's game. Edwards didn't dress for last season's debacle as his rookie year was ended by a torn knee ligament three weeks earlier. But he watched as his teammates were overrun, overpowered and overmatched.
"It was embarrassing," Edwards said. "Anytime you lose like that especially in a rivalry game, it was terrible. I vowed when I came back that wouldn't happen. I can't win a game by myself, but I can do everything I can to ensure it won't happen. We definitely will not lose like that again."
Perhaps for the first time in their post-expansion era, the Browns have players who understand the significance of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry and its importance to fans in both blue-collar cities.
Coach Romeo Crennel was on Cleveland's staff as an assistant in 2000 before spending four seasons with New England. He said that unless a player grew up or went to college in the area, the Steelers-Browns matchup was nothing special.
"In 1999, you have guys from all over," he said. "They knew very little about the Browns history. It takes time for some of these guys to understand and get it. I think the guys understand that it is an important game for not only Cleveland, but us. And we're going to play good."