Notebook: Ben vs. Charlie and other tales

The Steelers are playing the Cleveland Browns today and there is one sub-plot after another -- as always -- between these two would-be rivals.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger opened his weekly press huddle with a rather odd response.

He was asked what he remembers about his college MAC rival Charlie Frye, the Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback.

"Let me put it this way, we're not best friends like everyone thinks we are," Roethlisberger said. When pressed, the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback said: "Everyone keeps asking if we hate each other since we're rivals now. No, we're competitors and I admire what he's doing."

They've been competitors three times while Roethlisberger was at Miami (Ohio) and Frye was at Akron. Miami's margin of victory increased -- from 3 to 17 to 25 – in each game.

In the pros, Frye has started the last three games (1-2 W-L) and parts of the previous two games. His numbers are: 63.6 completion percent, 7.1 yards per attempt, 3-4 touchdown-interception ratio and a 76.9 passer rating. Frye is sacked every 10.8 times he drops back.

Roethlisberger this year: 64 completion percentage, 8.7 ypa, 16-7 ratio and a 102 rating. He's sacked every 12.8 times he drops back.


We remember Antonio Bryant as the petulant Pitt wide receiver who menaced his huddle and sideline if he felt he wasn't getting the ball enough. Pittsburgh media and coaches let him get away with it, but Bill Parcells didn't. He shipped Bryant to the Browns last year for Quincy Morgan.

In the last game against the Steelers, Bryant was the mouthiest player on the field while catching five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown with 21 seconds left. He also fumbled after taking a hit from Chris Hope.

"He's a very emotional guy and he plays with his mouth a lot, just like some of us on defense," Hope said. "It's unusual for an offensive guy to really get into the mouthing because they don't get too many opportunities to hit us and we get all the opportunities in the world to hit them, so it makes it kind of unusual. He's a guy that talks a lot, but he makes plays so I guess he has the right to talk."


Casey Hampton said the Minnesota Vikings were the first team to ever single-block him while backed up at their goal line. He said it was particularly unwise to do so since he was cocked at an angle between center and guard.

"When I'm gapping, I hit the gap real hard and penetrate the backfield, so a lot of teams don't block it that way," he said.

Joe Greene made the technique famous. He first used it in the 1974 AFC Championship game against the Oakland Raiders. It's the day defensive coordinator Bud Carson unveiled his new stunt 4-3. Hampton has been using the technique since his rookie year in 2001.

"I do it pretty good so they kind of let me do it a lot more lately," he said. "It helps you because you're in the gap and you're not two-gapping. You don't have to play both sides of the center. That's your gap and you get in it and go. There's no thinking involved. But when you're like that, the guard's going to come down and it's like you're making them double-team you. If they don't, you're going to be in the backfield, so it forces them to double-team you."


Last Sunday Larry Foote played the best game of his career. He recorded five tackles for loss and was the primary tackler on the safety caused by Hampton. It was a new level of play for Foote. Does he feel like a new player?

"No, man. It's: What have you done for me lately?" he said. "That game's already forgotten about. Coach is already back yelling at me. The game is behind me. I did well on a sheet of paper, but if you watch the film you'll see I had a whole lot of help. A lot of people made those plays possible for me."


The last time the Steelers played the Browns, they beat them 34-21 without Roethlisberger, inside linebacker James Farrior, running back Willie Parker and second tight end Jerame Tuman. "That's veteran leadership," said Hines Ward. "Having those guys in there makes us a better team, but at the same time Cleveland's getting better, and towards the end of the year a lot of teams don't play like the records they have. This is going to be a challenge. This is Cleveland's year right here: beat the Steelers and make us go home with them."


The Cleveland Plain Dealer made a case in Friday's edition that veteran running back Lee Suggs might perform better against the Steelers than starter Reuben Droughns.

The writer, Tony Grossi, pointed out that after Droughns rushed for 166 yards in Game 10, he's averaged 3.2 yards per carry (4.5 in the first 10 games) since, due in part to a knee injury suffered when Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud rolled up on him. Droughns has fumbled three times in the last four games, too.

Droughns has five more carries (280) than his previous high and is only 26 away from Jim Brown's franchise record. Suggs, the former starter, has only two carries in an injury-plagued season, but he's healthy now and all four of his career 100-yard games occurred in the month of December.

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