PITTSBURGH - There's been a lot of talk this week about the rivalry aspect of Sunday's AFC North Division game between the Browns and Steelers.
The game has taken on added significance because it marks the 100th meeting between the two. The Browns hold a 54-45 advantage. Cleveland was 35-15 in the first 50 games, but Pittsburgh has turned the tables and posted a 30-19 advantage in the next 49 games.
The players are well aware of the importance of the game to both cities. They notice it even more when they go on the road.
"As soon as the busses pull up to the stadium, you can tell in the fans' eyes that they don't like you," Browns quarterback Tim Couch said. "They're flipping you off and throwing things at you. You can tell you're not their favorite team."
Browns coach Butch Davis developed an appreciation for NFL rivalries during his days as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. He'd eventually like to bridge a gap that seems to exists between today's players and those of decades gone by.
"Harvey Martin one time broke down in tears in front of our defense in 1990, talking about how much he hated the Washington Redskins," Davis said. "I don't know if I ever saw anyone hate one particular thing more than he hated the Redskins. I'd love for Clay Matthews to come in here and tell these guys what it was like to play Pittsburgh. Hopefully, we can get some of that stuff back."
Today's game is vitally important for the 0-2 Steelers. Not many teams bounce back from an 0-3 start to make the playoffs.
The Steelers are taking a must-win approach.
"The biggest key for us is to try to get in our minds' eyes in preseason and training camp to don't believe in the papers," Pittsburgh safety Lee Flowers said. "You have to treat this year just like every year. Don't get too enamored with all the media hype.
"We've had so much hype that we're this and we're that. Now we're sitting here at 0-2, and now what? We're still getting paid. If it's time for us to give up, maybe Mr. Rooney (Steelers owner Dan Rooney) should quit paying us."
The Browns are thinking about going for the kill.
"If we win this game, we're going to go up three games on Pittsburgh," Couch said. "That's going to be a huge step for this team. Especially at Pittsburgh, which is a tough environment, it would be a huge win for us."
One thing for sure is that Davis isn't looking past the Steelers.
"Nobody in this building believes that that's an 0-2 football team," Davis said. "You look at the way they play. Their schemes and the talent they have. They caught two talented teams early in the year. In one of them, they (the Steelers) were on the threshold of winning the game, but a turnover kept them from winning the game. It will be a heck of a challenge."