Passan: Where's the Pride?

Of all the front page articles, Rich Passan's articles create some of the most high-traffic threads in the forums. It's going to be hard to debate this, however: "What the Pittsburgh Steelers did to the inadequately prepared Browns was several stages beyond embarrassing. It was a thorough and complete dismantling of a football team . . . play by play, series by series, touchdown by touchdown."

It was so sad, it was almost comical. There's such a fine line between laughing and crying, most fans probably didn't know what to do first Saturday at CBS.

What the Pittsburgh Steelers did to the inadequately prepared Browns was several stages beyond embarrassing. It was a thorough and complete dismantling of a football team . . . play by play, series by series, touchdown by touchdown.

It was the playground bullies against the playground wimps. And the 41-0 final was in no way indicative how much the Steelers controlled the game as the Browns played in shamefully expansionesque fashion.

You can throw in large doses of another visceral emotion, anger, after the Steelers proved once and for all the Browns don't belong on the same field with them.

The only positive that came out of this one is that no one was maimed.

It was as though the Steelers sat in on the Browns' meetings all week. They knew every pass pattern that was going to be run; they knew the offensive line's blocking schemes; they absolutely blew apart the vanilla Cleveland defense; and they played with a swagger that foretold the outcome, which was achieved with ridiculous ease. It looked as though Joey Porter was in their huddle.

When Romeo Crennel said the Browns were outcoached, he wasn't kidding. He neglected to add one word - badly.

So when the hell is Crennel going to learn that playing Pittsburgh, especially in front of the home folks, means his team had better be ready. You know the relentless Bill Cowher is always going to have his men geared up.

The quintessence of Cowher showed up in the third quarter when, with a 27-0 lead, he unsuccessfully challenged a ruling on the field that a Ben Roethlisberger pass was incomplete. He's up 27 points, his team is manhandling the Browns and he shows no mercy. He is always fighting. Nothing wrong with that.

As it turns out, Cowher had nothing to worry about. The Browns played with no pride against his Steelers. One could stretch a point and maintain they played scared; mailed it in. And that's sad for a franchise that has such a rich tradition of winning.

The Steelers played hard until the end when Larry Foote put an exclamation on the shutout when he planted Aaron Shea at the Pittsburgh three-yard line on the final play of the game.

Don't know about you, but I'm getting sick and tired of watching the Browns play the Baltimores and Cincinnatis and Pittsburghs and take a pass. Not show up. That is unacceptable and has got to stop.

It has happened far too often. Chris Palmer didn't get it. Butch Davis didn't get it. And now, it appears as though Crennel doesn't get it. He's gone for the collar in five games so far against the AFC North.

When the Browns play the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals, particularly at home, they had better come ready to play snot-dirty football for 60 minutes. On both sides of the ball. Anything less should not be accepted. It's incumbent on whoever coaches the Browns to realize the importance of these games.

Crennel was feeling so full of pride after last week's sloppy victory in Oakland that he gave his men the next day off. He celebrated as if his team had actually accomplished something. Winning a fifth game of the season in week 15 is an accomplishment?

Crennel totally ignored the blemishes that popped up in that game. Rewarded his men with a day off. You can get away with that against Oakland. Not the Steelers.

And I don't want to hear that the Steelers have more talent. Of course they do, but that should not be used as an excuse for absorbing such a pounding. There should be no exoneration for what took place Saturday.

I have seen Browns teams of the past - pre 1999 - with less talent rise up and pull off an upset against a superior opponent. Anything wrong with playing beyond your capabilities? Overachieving, anyone?

The Steelers whomped on the Browns in every phase of the game Saturday. The first time these teams met earlier in the season, the Steelers beat the Browns up. This time, they beat them up and down.

Everyone wearing Browns and Orange was culpable. The so-called improved offensive line had no clue where the Steelers' defense was coming from. The zone blitz came from every conceivable angle. Eight sacks, numerous hurries, several knockdowns and five caused fumbles. Not bad for a day's work.

Charlie Frye was tossed around like a rag doll. Some of it was his fault for hanging on to the ball too long and too loosely. Other times, the offensive line looked helpless with what the Steelers were doing. Pass protection was poor at best.

And when Frye did have time to throw, he was mostly off target because he threw before he wanted to. Something called a pass rush, a phase of the game that seems foreign to the Browns.

Was the loss Frye's fault? Not entirely. He had plenty of help. This was a classic team loss. But Frye sure did see the future in a nasty sort of way against the Steelers.

On defense, the Browns' sieve-like performance was reminiscent of the 1999 season. And that is an indictment. Too often, we saw linebackers being dragged downfield. Too often, we saw defensive linemen being blown up.

The secondary, which has played fairly well until now, was exposed by Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and Cedrick Wilson.

The second half of the season for a rebuilding team like the Browns should provide improvement. If there has been any, will someone kindly point out what it is?

Instead of improving, they are regressing. It's getting worse. There are no blocks on which to build unless you consider that Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. will be back next season.

Kind of makes one wonder how did this team beat Chicago and Miami and play Indianapolis tough? Beats me. Blind squirrel syndrome?

Overall, one inescapable fact emerged. The Browns have a long way, a very long way, to go before even coming close to approaching respectability.

Crennel should never throw away the tape of this game while he's still coaching the Browns. He should keep it and play it on occasion for his team as a constant reminder of how bad it was when the Browns were down.

He should play it as a constant reminder of what it takes to become a solid football team, of what it will feel like when they exact revenge on the Steelers one day.

But first, he damn well better understand how extremely important it is to not just beat the Steelers, but beat them up.

One more game, mercifully, to go. And if the Browns play against Baltimore Sunday the way they played in the Oakland victory, the result will be no different than the Pittsburgh game.

It won't be pretty. It'll be sad, but this time not very comical.


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