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Cleveland Browns' DC Rob Ryan says team is excited for Steelers challenge


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New regime vs. an old curse: Cleveland Browns' Ryan says team is excited for Steelers challenge

By Mary Kay Cabot

October 18, 2009, 5:20AM


Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Time: Sunday, 1 p.m., Heinz Field

TV: WOIO Ch. 19

Radio: WMMS FM/100.7




It might not happen Sunday in Pittsburgh, and it might not happen back here in Cleveland on Dec. 10, but rest assured, the new crew is bent on fielding a team that can someday soon stand up to the Men of Steel.


"[This rivalry] is one of the reasons I came here to Cleveland," said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "I love football. I know Pittsburgh loves football and I know our town loves football. They represent their town well and I know we do too.


"We're a work in progress, but this is a team that this city is going to love. We're a tough city. We're tough people out here in Ohio. We're just going to keep getting better and eventually everybody's going to see that the plan is laid in place and it's perfect."


Ryan need only look back to 2006, when his Raiders beat the Steelers 20-13, to know it can be done. Ryan's defense outplayed the Steelers' vaunted unit, picking off Ben Roethlisberger four times and returning two for touchdowns, and sacking him five times.


"Last time I saw them, they held our offense to [98] yards," said Ryan. "Of course, we won the game, but that's because our defense was dominating. No shock there."


Ryan was smiling.


"That's what we plan on doing, is contributing to a win on Sunday [as a defense]. That's what we're excited about. ... These are the type of games you look forward to playing and watching your guys. Is it going to take all they have physically? Darn right. That's why you love this type of game. I hope it snows, rains, mud; I don't care. Bring it on, we're excited about it."

It's been so bad, it's seemed like the freshman vs. the varsity at times. But Browns coach Eric Mangini isn't fazed.


"That's in the past," he said. "I like our varsity."


That's been the message all week: these are not the Browns of former coaches Chris Palmer, Butch Davis or Romeo Crennel.


"Coach Mangini keeps saying that many of us have never been here, and he's never been here," said guard Eric Steinbach. "We're not going to walk around all week acting like this group in '09 has lost to then all of those times. This is a new era. We're starting new and we can start out on a good note."


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin laughed when asked if it was hard to get his team to buy in the rivalry notion.


"It's a big game in our minds," said Tomlin. "I know coach Mangini doesn't care about what's happened the last 11 times we've played those guys. Those aren't his issues. He's not toting that baggage and neither are we. We're excited about getting ready to play this football game. It's an AFC North matchup. We respect the rivalry that is Pittsbrugh and Cleveland and we look forward to playing them."


Quarterback Derek Anderson, 0-3 vs. the Steelers, at least came close once, gaining a 21-6 lead in the first half in 2007 before letting it slip away in a 31-28 loss. Anderson completed only 16 of 35 attempts, but three went for TDs.


"Obviously, I have a sour taste in my mouth from the time we had them down up there a couple years ago and I'll never forget that," said Anderson, who had nine of his passes dropped in Buffalo last week and completed 2-of-17. "It's just the emotion of the game, Kellen Winslow and Joey Porter going at it, him stiff-arming Joey. I think both teams understand the rivalry."


Jamal Lewis has averaged only 36 yards in three of his last four games against the Steelers, but managed 94 in the finale last season. Regardless, they're two of his favorite games of the season.


"I know those guys, they know me and it's always fun to play them," Lewis said. "It's physical and you know it's just going to be a dogfight all day. For me, it's just run hard and don't back down. You try to bring the fight to them instead of them bringing it to us. If you come out with 70 yards, that's a good day."


The Browns will have to contend with an all-star cast that includes safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker James Harrison, running backs Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, nose tackle Casey Hampton, tight end Heath Miller and receiver Hines Ward.


Meanwhile, their own special teams star, Josh Cribbs, who's fared well against the Steelers as a returned, including two kickoff returns for touchdowns, will set aside his contract dispute for the day.


"I'm focused on this game," Cribbs said. "You can ask any Browns fans. It will make their life, their day, their week if we can beat this football team."


Injury updates: The Browns downgraded kicker Phil Dawson (right calf) and tight end Steve Heiden (knee) to out for the Steelers game. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (illness) is listed as "questionable."



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