Answer Man

JW: Answer Man, let's start on a somber note. About the late Steve Courson, we know of his past reputation for using steroids, and we know of his great character in speaking out against them late in his life, but we don't know enough about him as a player. What kind of a player was he?

AM: Oh, I'll tell you what, he was terrific. At 6-1, 275-280, he could run a 40 in 4.7, even the high 4.6s. And at 6-1 he could dunk a basketball and he had so much power that he could just annihilate you. I remember watching him lead one sweep, and Reggie Williams, the outside linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, came up to take him and Steve hit Reggie with his face, right into his sternum and actually lifted him off the ground. And for about three or four seconds, Reggie's feet were off the ground. When his feet finally came down, his heels bit into the Astroturf and the next thing that hit the ground was the back of his head. Steve never broke stride. He ran right through him and picked up the safety. He did some amazing things with that speed and athleticism.

JW: Now the Steelers have struggled to beat two bad teams. Does that concern you?

AM: No. I'm not concerned at all. As a matter of fact, it's a testament to this team that guys go down and they keep plugging someone else in. Sure, they might have a couple of ugly wins, but they have a couple of Rembrandts, too. The win in Cincinnati was a great win. Good teams find a way to win, and that's what this football team has shown.

JW: Do you see any weaknesses?

AM: The only thing that's kind of concerning is I'd like to see more production on third down, particularly on defense. I'd like to see a little bit more pressure from the down linemen and the outside linebackers. That's always something you'd like to see. Those are two areas you'd like to see improved. I'd like to see more pressure.

JW: Why isn't Joey Porter getting any pressure?

AM: I can't answer that.

JW: Do you worry that his career's in decline?

AM: To be honest with you that thought hasn't entered my mind. The sacks tend to be like turnovers a lot of times: They come in bunches. You may see Joey go through a cold spell and then he'll get hot. They seem to come in bunches.

JW: What do you like about the team at the halfway point?

AM: I really like the way the defense plays as a whole, the toughness of it, the fact they want to play physical. And the other thing I like about the defense, when they get a turnover they go right to the transition. They look to score, whether it's Troy (Polamalu) or Chris Hope. It's not enough just to have the ball in their hands. They're looking to take it to the house.

JW: You know, about this time last year they started using Max Starks on the line. Are this year's young offensive linemen ready for some playing time?

AM: They could play now. They'd make a hundred M.E.s (mental errors), but they could play now. It's hard getting them enough work – our work. We only have, what, 45 snaps a practice? You have to get your starters and top back-ups enough work, so it's hard for them to get anything more than individual technique work, conditioning and their usual work on the look team. Now, they've been getting some reps lately because we've been given Marvel (Smith) some rest, so there's been some time for them.

JW: What's Marvel's problem?

AM: Still his shoulder.

JW: The same one that bothered him two years ago?

AM: It's not as painful as it was back then, but yeah, it's still the same area. I don't think it'll ever heal completely. This is a tough game.

JW: On to Sunday, what strikes you about the Browns?

AM: You can see Romeo (Crennel)'s fingerprint on them. The O-line has been steady; not spectacular, but very steady. They're decent, kind of like New England. New England's offensive line is decent; so is this one. They want to run the ball. I was impressed with Rueben Droughns. He runs hard, especially between the tackles. He's not going to scare you with his speed but boy he runs hard, gives you a nice effort, and has good vision to cut back. The passing game, Trent Dilfer gets rid of the ball quick and he gets it down the field. He's still got some football left in him.

JW: What kind of effect has the massive turnover had on them?

AM: I don't know. They're veteran guys. I sometimes think we kind of overrate the whole chemistry thing. It's nice when it happens and you have five guys on your line who've played together, but when the guys you had stink, why wouldn't you want to get rid of them?

JW: What about their defense?

AM: They use a 3-4, but they don't do what New England does. They don't transition back and forth, from 3-4 to 4-3, the way New England does. They will go to four down on second-and-mid to second-and-long situations, but on first downs they're almost always 3-4. Their linebackers do play tighter to the line of scrimmage. They like to get up a little bit closer.

JW: So what are your instincts telling you about this game?

AM: My instincts tell me this should be a game the Steelers win. I think Cleveland will play them tough, they'll play hard, but I don't see them as a team that is capable.

JW: But can't a decent team raise its game against a rival?

AM: I'm not even really sure how much this rivalry affects anything. It's more for the fans and the media. Hanford Dixon said he talked to Braylon Edwards the other day and Edwards said that Michigan-Ohio State was a rivalry, not this one, so that's what they think. It used to mean a lot, but with the high turnover rate and the fact they went away for a few years, it's changed. These guys don't appreciate it as much and the games haven't had the same importance.


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