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Marcus Benard gets it


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Unlike most of the rest of us, Browns linebacker Marcus Benard has fond memories of his experiences with the Pittsburgh Steelers.


In fact, both of the Pittsburgh games last season represented career mileposts for Benard. Benard was still on the team's practice squad for the first meeting in Pittsburgh in October, but he made the trip as a reward for being named "practice player of the week" by coach Eric Mangini.


"It was wild. Pittsburgh fans are something. They were so loud," Benard remembered of that 27-14 Steelers win.


Two months later, the Steelers were slumping and the Browns were dying for a win after 11 losses in their first 12 games. Injuries had ravaged the defense. Benard was pressed into strictly a pass-rush role.


On that frigid December night, Benard had the game of his young career. He had two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger as the Browns shocked the frozen Steelers, 13-6. The colossal upset broke a 12-game losing streak to Pittsburgh and knocked the Steelers out of the AFC playoffs.


It also thrust Benard into the spotlight as a legitimate player on defense. Starting with that performance, Benard has seven sacks in his past eight games. He leads the Browns this season with 3.5 sacks. People no longer ask, "Who's that No. 58?"


"I don't think anybody knew me before that game," Benard said. "Anyone who did was really a true Browns fan. Anytime you make plays in a rivalry game when everybody's watching, you get noticed. I made plays and got noticed."


The game has stood as the signature win of Mangini's tenure as Browns coach. It was the real first reward for players like Benard who believed.


"In the Pittsburgh game, guys kind of bought into the formula for winning each particular game," said linebacker David Bowens. "I mean, it was like, 'This is how we can beat these guys, execute X, Y and Z, to win the game.' "


Roethlisberger, who had won 10 games in a row against the Browns, couldn't withstand the cold or the barrage of pressure shooting from different angles every series. The Browns had eight sacks from six players.


Coupled with the timely contributions of Josh Cribbs -- two long kick returns and 87 yards of WildDawg running -- it was a textbook example of a Mangini team overcoming deficiencies in offensive football to topple a stronger opponent. Brady Quinn completed just six passes in the game, only two to wide receivers.


The same challenge faces the Browns Sunday in Pittsburgh.


"They've changed their offensive line coach, moved a couple [linemen] around," Bowens said. "So all our [game plan] stuff will be based on this year. But it'll be the same attitude as last year."


The Browns will try to beat the Steelers with a quarterback making his first NFL start -- whether that is rookie Colt McCoy or Brett Ratliff. Their feature running back, Peyton Hillis, starting center and right guard haven't practiced yet this week.


The blueprint for beating Pittsburgh lies in Mangini's methodical game plan of last season.


"Facts are what they are," Bowens said. "We're gonna have to do our job. We can't sit here and worry about it. We want to go out and show support by doing our jobs. Special teams can set up field position. That equals points. Defense can keep them backed up. That can equal points. So every little intricate part of everything non-offensive plays a huge part in this game. In the two games vs. Pittsburgh last year, we completed 14 of 45 passes."


Benard recalls the dire circumstances prefacing the December meeting with Pittsburgh.


"We were talking about how we hadn't beat them in so long . . . they're the big bad Steelers," he said. "So we welcomed that challenge. At that time, we were at a point where we had only three original starters on defense. And a group of guys that just were hungry. We were fired up and ready to go."


The toppling of Roethlisberger just might have been the catalyst for the Browns trading Kamerion Wimbley after the season. For years, Wimbley had chased Roethlisberger all over the field in the two annual clashes with the Steelers, but rarely knocked him down. Ironically, the third-round draft pick obtained from Oakland in the Wimbley trade was used to select McCoy -- Sunday's likely starting quarterback.


"When you go against Ben Roethlisberger, you have to be tenacious," Benard said. "You can't just hit him on top. That's a big guy, a smart guy, and a slippery guy. He's a scrambler, shedding tackles. A quarterback like him, you can't get better than that. So you have to have the attitude of no matter what it takes, I have to get him down -- pull his feet, pull his shoestrings, whatever."


Benard quickly acquired an understanding of the rivalry with Pittsburgh and Cleveland's hatred of the team that has tortured the Browns for decades. He may be undefeated against the Steelers, but he knows the fans' pain.


"Well, I'm a Brown now, so I have those losses on my back, too. We're just intent on going forward and trying to make a new rep," Benard said.

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I love this kid and ryan knows how and when to use him, lets hope he pins big ben on the ground and makes the rapist spread and squeal like the pig he is, of course rogers has a taste for fine roasted pig too and may come in for some leftovers...ahhh this might be a really fun game to watch!

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I have always liked Benard & was extremely upset when they cut him last year, but they DID get him back thank God. I still feel we need a pass rushing DL on the other side to really create havoc consistently in the pass rush.


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