A Kinder, Gentler Rivalry

After years of segregation, Browns-Steelers rivalry has become contaminated with Benedict Arnolds. Steve King details the horror.

There once was a time decades ago that the Browns had two successive head coaches who were from the Pittsburgh area in Marty Schottenheimer, who also played at Pitt, and Bud Carson, who also coached for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Steelers had a head coach in Chuck Noll who was born and raised in Cleveland, went to college there and played messenger guard for Paul Brown's Browns.

And of course, there's Bill Cowher, who grew up in Pittsburgh, played and served as an assistant coach for the Browns and then became head coach of the Steelers.

But that hasn't happened much in the Browns-Steelers rivalry. If you coached or played for one team, then you generally didn't coach or play for the other team. It was unheard of, like an executive from Coke taking a job at Pepsi, or one from Burger King going to McDonald's.

You just don't go to the enemy –  the chief competition. It's simply not honorable.

After all, you don't want to be called a traitor – a Benedict Arnold -- do you?

When Carson was coaching in Cleveland, he was telling a story once about one of the Browns-Steelers fights that perpetuate this rivalry. "They started the fight," he said at one point. When asked to clarify, it was determined that "They" were the Browns, not the Steelers.

Yes, old habits die hard.

In 1981, the Steelers tried to sneak Rick Trocano, a quarterback/defensive back who was born and raised in Cleveland and played at Pitt, through waivers. All teams did it then.  Other teams looked the other way, because they knew they'd be doing at some point, too.

However, the Browns claimed him. Noll was so incensed that when the teams played at Cleveland shortly thereafter, he ran up the score to the tune of 32-10. The three Browns-Steelers games before that were decided by a combined total of 10 points, and the contest after that produced a 10-9 score. So you think that 1981 game was a little out of the norm.

But all that stuff is passé now. Movement between the two clubs is common. Remember defensive lineman Orpheus Roye? He was drafted by the Steelers in 1996 and played with them through '99, signed with the Browns and stayed with them through 2007, after which he re-signed with Pittsburgh and was part of its Super Bowl championship team last year.

But Roye's not the only one. Just look at this year's Steelers, who meet the Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field. There are a number of them who have connections to the Browns, Cleveland and/or Ohio, such as:

*President Art Rooney II – Went to prep school in Cleveland.

*Head coach Mike Tomlin – Spent the 2000 training camp with the Browns as a minority coaching intern.

*Assistant head coach/defensive line John Mitchell – Was defensive line coach of the Browns from 1991-93.

*Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians – Had the same title with the Browns from 2001-03.

*Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau – Born and raised in London, Ohio, played at Ohio State, and selected by the Browns with their second pick in the 1959 NFL Draft (the first was guard John Wooten) although he never played for the team being going on to star as a defensive back with the Detroit Lions.

*Linebackers coach Keith Butler – Served that role with the Browns from 1999-2002.

*Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner – A Cleveland native and the son of Ross Fichtner, who played with the Browns from 1960-67 and was a part-time starter at right safety for their 1964 NFL championship team.

*Special teams coordinator

*Offensive line coach  Larry Zierlein – Spent 2001-04 as offensive line coach of the Browns and, before that, was the offensive line coach/running game coordinator for the University of Cincinnati from 1997-2000.

*Player development director Ray Jackson – Played cornerback for the Browns from 1999-2001 and then worked several years for the club in player development, scouting and coaching.

*Special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky – Was outside linebackers/special teams coach at Kent State in 1989 and '90, and was at Bowling Green from 1991-99, serving as linebackers/special teams coach from 1991-98 and then adding the title of assistant head coach in '99.

*Outside linebacker James Harrison -- Played at Akron Coventry High School and Kent State.

*Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger –  Played at Findlay High School and Miami of Ohio.

*Wide receiver Santonio Holmes – A former Ohio State Buckeye.

*Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff – A native of Youngstown who played at Columbus Whitehall-Yearling High School.

*Defensive lineman Nick Eason –  Spent part of the 2004 season and the entire 2005-06 campaign with the Browns.

Now for the Browns:

*Strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski -- Played for the Steelers in 1996-97 and 2000, coached at Pitt from 1998-2001 and in '07 and coached at Robert Morris in 2005 and '06.

*Assistant strength and conditioning coach Alan DeGennaro --A native of Altoona who attended Pitt and then served as assistant strength and conditioning coach for the school in 2000 and '01.

*Center/guard Hank Fraley -- Played at Robert Morris and originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2000.

*Cornerback Hank Poteat – Was a third-round pick of the Steelers in the 2000 NFL Draft and played with them through '02.

*Defensive back Anthony Madison –  Signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2006 and spent time on the team's practice squad and active roster through the first part of this season.


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