Every other head coach in the division says the Browns are the favorite to win the AFC North, but Romeo Crennel says the Steelers are the team to beat.
The Steelers have beaten the Browns nine straight times. Last year in Pittsburgh
the Browns led, 21-6, in the first half and lost, 31-28. Both teams finished
10-6, but since Pittsburgh swept the series, the Steelers advanced to the
playoffs and the Browns stayed home.
"Until we can beat Pittsburgh," Crennel said, "we probably won't win the
Crennel has proven in three-plus years in Cleveland a talent for reducing every
problem to a common denominator. When asked about how much his team has improved
this offseason, he'll say it is better on paper, but he won't know until they
get on the football field.
When Crennel says the Browns won't win the AFC North until they can beat
Pittsburgh, he means it. He isn't trying to soften up Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
The Browns have lost six straight to the Steelers under Crennel, some in bizarre
ways. The opener against the Steelers last year began with punter Paul Ernster
allowing a snap deep in Cleveland territory to go right through his hands. It
got worse after that. Two months later the Browns blew a 15-point lead in
Crennel disputes any suggestion the Browns are spooked by the Steelers. Asked
whether a psychological barrier is preventing the Browns from beating
Pittsburgh, Crennel shook his head.
"I don't think so," he said. "The second game against Pittsburgh the last two
years, we've been ahead in those games with a good chance to win. We just didn't
get it done.
"The quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) made plays and basically won the games for
them. Hopefully we can neutralize him a little bit with some of the guys we
added and be able to get over the hump."
Crennel was referring to defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams.
Rogers was acquired from the Lions for a third-round draft choice and cornerback
Leigh Bodden. Williams was acquired from the Packers for a second-round choice.
Outside linebacker Willie McGinest took the blame for the 31-28 loss in
Pittsburgh last year because he could not track down Roethlisberger. Neither
Rogers nor Williams are likely to beat "Big Ben" in a foot race, either, but the
hope would be Roethlisberger would not get by them. Each tackle had seven sacks
with his former team last season.
--Coach Romeo Crennel said there are no plans to re-sign offensive tackle Nat Dorsey. On paper, the Browns appear thin at tackle after starters Joe Thomas and
Kevin Shaffer, but guards Eric Steinbach and Ryan Tucker have started at left
and right tackle respectively.
--Crennel said he or someone else from his coaching staff will visit LeCharles Bentley at the facility where Bentley is working out on his own in Arizona.
Bentley has not played in two seasons while recovering from a torn patellar
tendon. Crennel expects Bentley to participate in the offseason program
beginning in mid-May.
--Gib Shanley, radio voice of the Browns from 1961-84, died at the age of 76.
Shanley called the Browns last championship when they beat the Colts 27-0 on
Dec. 27, 1964.
--With a glut of starters and former starters at guard -- Steinbach, Tucker, Rex Hadnot and Seth McKinney -- one might think Crennel is tempted to let Tucker and
Shaffer compete at right tackle while Hadnot and McKinney compete at right
guard. But that won't be the case. Tucker will head to training camp as the
starting right guard, Crennel said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had as much excitement when this thing went
down with Shaun Rogers -- and knowing we had Corey Williams on board -- than we
did last year on draft day when we got Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn. I think
everyone inside the building feels great about what we've done." -- Browns
general manager Phil Savage on reshaping the defensive line.
Crennel Points to Steelers
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