Passan: A Sucker for Good Football

NOTE: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the OBR staff. We mean that. We really, really mean that. Don't hit us.

I'm a sucker for very good football teams. Always have been.

So at the risk of sounding like a heretic, I'm pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl Sunday.

What?! Rooting for the Steelers is a sacrilege! An outrage!

How dare any self-respecting Browns fan root for the evil incarnate Steelers? That's like rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. It's downright offensive. They'd rather have a root canal.

I don't buy that. Well, maybe the Ravens, but not the Bengals or Steelers.

In case you haven't noticed - and you probably won't agree with this, either - that's one hell of a football team Bill Cowher has put together over there. The Steelers are the anti-Cleveland Browns. And I'm jealous.

I'm jealous for any number of reasons, not the least of which is Cowher could have done all this in Cleveland. I have always thought Art Modell picked the wrong Bill in 1991, when he tapped Belichick over Cowher.

I don't care how many Super Bowls Belichick has won at New England. The Chin coaches my kind of football, the kind of football Clevelanders would love to see.

If you believe in the trickle-down theory, as I do, the Steelers are a direct reflection of their coach. They are smart, they are tough, they are aggressive and they play with uncommon passion game after game.

They'd just as soon knock you on your hind flanks as look at you. They play the game the way it was meant to be played: With a chip on their shoulders.

The finesse game never appealed to me. I prefer punching the opposition in the mouth on defense; punching them on the mouth on offense; punching them in the mouth on special teams. Now that's the kind of football I like to see.

The Steelers are not an abundantly talented team. They don't beat you with a warehouse full of talent. They beat you with their will and their cunning. They beat you from the neck up as well as with their arms and legs.

Losing is not an option with the Steelers. They specialize in overachieving. Cowher squeezes every ounce of competitive juices out of his men. They arrive at game time in attack mode and maintain it for 60 minutes.

Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, Antwaan Randle El and Ben Roethlisberger are not superstars on offense. They're very good, but not superstars. On defense, Joey Porter, James Farrior, Casey Hampton and Troy Polamalu might be slightly above average with just about any other team.

They all play beyond their capabilities. They play with passion. They are playmakers. And they are perfect for the Steelers' system.

There is a good reason the Steelers keep coming up with ten-strikes in the draft. They clearly define what kind of players they want to play specific positions, then go out and get them. They look for football players, not athletes who can play football.

This is the kind of team the Browns should strive to become. Playing football in a blue-collar town like Cleveland calls for down-and-nasty football. Not dirty. Call it football with a sneer.

The Steelers come right at you. Nothing fancy except for an occasional - and well conceived - gadget play on offense. They line up and play in-your-face football.

They are superbly coached. From the many schemes of highly creative defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the father of the zone blitz, to the wildly imaginative mind of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the Steelers are a pleasure to watch.

Another reason I'm rooting for the Steelers is the NFL's predilection of copying the success of Super Bowl winners. The NFL is clearly the copycat king of the sports world.

A lot of teams switched back to the 3-4 defense after New England's three Super Bowl titles in the last four years. Count the Browns among them.

And if the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in Detroit, it'll be interesting to see how long it takes the rest of the league to finally realize the Steelers' brand of football is the best way to go.

Now it's time for Phil Savage to go out and plug the right faces and bodies into the necessary positions. It's time to give Romeo Crennel the right bullets to fire from his coaching arsenal. It's time to get a Jerome Bettis, a Joey Porter, a Troy Polamalu, a Hines Ward, a Casey Hampton.

It's time to bring some playmakers to Cleveland.

In some ways, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are very much alike: Two towns that have suffered through hard economic times; rust-belt communities that love their sports teams.

In a way, there will always be a symbiotic relationship between the two cities. And it's not just on a football field.

So yeah, I'm rooting for the Steelers Sunday, but just the one game. It's with the future in mind. The future of the Browns.

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