Steelers have sights set on Browns' rookies

The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cleveland to open the 2007 season against the new and improved Browns today at 1 p.m. The Browns are young, and the Steelers have some ideas about where to hurt them best.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger went out shopping one night this week and he saw one of his teammates at the grocery store.

"I saw Alan," Roethlisberger said of Alan Faneca. "We ended up signing autographs and stuff throughout the grocery store. People were coming up and saying, ‘You have to win or our season's over.'

"Geez, it's the first game of the year, but we take that mentality that it's a must-win game because it's a divisional game. It is the first game and it's a start."

And it just might be a must-win game, for Mike Tomlin in particular. No Steelers coach has ever won his first game in Cleveland, but Tomlin's being counted on to change tradition. He's been put in charge of a team only two years removed from a Super Bowl and it's playing the team that's the consensus bottom-feeder of the AFC North Division. And no Steelers team has lost to these new Cleveland Browns and made the playoffs, so it's perhaps a must-win game if recent history is the model.

It's a young Browns team with interesting talent at key positions, but the important word is "young." The offensive line, for instance, is comprised of a top-five draft pick making his first start at left tackle and an expensive free agent coming back from a knee injury to make his first start at left guard. The right guard is new and the right tackle is questionable with a concussion.

"When you've got all those guys missing and you haven't worked together," said Steelers guard Kendall Simmons, "that's trouble."

Cleveland is convinced the Steelers will target rookie left tackle Joe Thomas, the draft's third overall pick. But "target" might not be the right word for what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has in mind on his 70th birthday.

"I don't think we're going to game-plan anything towards him," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "Yeah, I think (LeBeau) just wants us to get after him. It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to run everything around him, it just means when we get a one-on-one block against him, he expects us to win. So do I."

Thomas, at least, has played the entire preseason, which is more than linemates Eric Steinbach or Kevin Shaffer can say.

"He looks okay," Keisel said of Thomas. "I don't think he's as comfortable as he was at Wisconsin, but he looks okay. He's big. He has great potential in my opinion. But obviously I'm sure we're going to come at him a little bit."

The Browns have a rookie starter on defense, too. Eric Wright was the Browns' second-round draft pick, who would've been a first-rounder had he not had such a troubled college career. But he's flashed that first-round talent this preseason and the Browns believe he's another key piece to the future. The future, of course, starts Sunday against Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

"He looks good. He's aggressive. Still, it's his first game," said Ward. "We've got to see if we can exploit that and take advantage of it. We've done that. We've got some plays and hopefully we can take advantage of his inexperience."

Ward has never gone up against a rookie starting in an opener, but he presumes Wright will have an easier time than the rookie left tackle.

"You can always kind of hide the guy with a safety over the top," Ward said. "And I see them doing it sometimes, playing cover two -- cover him by putting a safety behind him so he don't give up the big plays. But every now and then they play man to man. It depends if we call a pass play at the same time they play man to man. It's a chess game. "We're not going to sit there and keep trying to set up things. We're still going to do what we're going to do, but in certain situations, if we get certain coverage that we think they're going to be in, we're going to try to take advantage of it."

The Browns do have quality young talent that's beginning to blossom: Braylon Edwards is a deep threat who caught 61 passes with a 14.5 average per catch last year in his second pro season; Kellen Winslow led NFL tight ends with 89 catches last season, his first healthy season of three; blind-side pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks as a rookie last season; inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was second on the team in tackles last season as a rookie; safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool might be the best young tandem in the league.

The Browns were smart enough not to rush rookie quarterback Brady Quinn into the lineup. Charlie Frye will be under center instead. And the running back is an old familiar Steelers nemesis, Jamal Lewis.

The Browns are a blend of young prospects and veteran leaders, but they still have holes and it might be a bit early for them to come together as a cohesive unit … like the veteran and still-young Steelers.

"What I've seen in the preseason," said Browns Coach Romeo Crennel, "is a very similar Steeler team to the ones I've seen in the past. They're an aggressive and physical defense. They can run to the ball. If anything, they've probably opened it up a little bit more with more deep throws, more balls going down the field than in the past. But they look like a similar Steelers bunch to me."


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nPITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger went out shopping one night this week and he saw one of his teammates at the grocery store.

\r\n\r\n\"I saw Alan,\" Roethlisberger said of Alan Faneca. \"We ended up signing autographs and stuff throughout the grocery store. People were coming up and saying, ‘You have to win or our season's over.'

\r\n\r\n\"Geez, it's the first game of the year, but we take that mentality that it's a must-win game because it's a divisional game. It is the first game and it's a start.\"

\r\n\r\nAnd it just might be a must-win game, for Mike Tomlin in particular. No Steelers coach has ever won his first game in Cleveland, but Tomlin's being counted on to change tradition. He's been put in charge of a team only two years removed from a Super Bowl and it's playing the team that's the consensus bottom-feeder of the AFC North Division. And no Steelers team has lost to these new Cleveland Browns and made the playoffs, so it's perhaps a must-win game if recent history is the model.

\r\n\r\nIt's a young Browns team with interesting talent at key positions, but the important word is \"young.\" The offensive line, for instance, is comprised of a top-five draft pick making his first start at left tackle and an expensive free agent coming back from a knee injury to make his first start at left guard. The right guard is new and the right tackle is questionable with a concussion.

\r\n\r\n\"When you've got all those guys missing and you haven't worked together,\" said Steelers guard Kendall Simmons, \"that's trouble.\"

\r\n\r\nCleveland is convinced the Steelers will target rookie left tackle Joe Thomas, the draft's third overall pick. But \"target\" might not be the right word for what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has in mind on his 70th birthday.

\r\n\r\n\"I don't think we're going to game-plan anything towards him,\" said defensive end Brett Keisel. \"Yeah, I think (LeBeau) just wants us to get after him. It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to run everything around him, it just means when we get a one-on-one block against him, he expects us to win. So do I.\"

\r\n\r\nThomas, at least, has played the entire preseason, which is more than linemates Eric Steinbach or Kevin Shaffer can say.

\r\n\r\n\"He looks okay,\" Keisel said of Thomas. \"I don't think he's as comfortable as he was at Wisconsin, but he looks okay. He's big. He has great potential in my opinion. But obviously I'm sure we're going to come at him a little bit.\"

\r\n\r\nThe Browns have a rookie starter on defense, too. Eric Wright was the Browns' second-round draft pick, who would've been a first-rounder had he not had such a troubled college career. But he's flashed that first-round talent this preseason and the Browns believe he's another key piece to the future. The future, of course, starts Sunday against Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

\r\n\r\n\"He looks good. He's aggressive. Still, it's his first game,\" said Ward. \"We've got to see if we can exploit that and take advantage of it. We've done that. We've got some plays and hopefully we can take advantage of his inexperience.\"

\r\n\r\nWard has never gone up against a rookie starting in an opener, but he presumes Wright will have an easier time than the rookie left tackle.

\r\n\r\n\"You can always kind of hide the guy with a safety over the top,\" Ward said. \"And I see them doing it sometimes, playing cover two -- cover him by putting a safety behind him so he don't give up the big plays. But every now and then they play man to man. It depends if we call a pass play at the same time they play man to man. It's a chess game.\r\n\r\n\"We're not going to sit there and keep trying to set up things. We're still going to do what we're going to do, but in certain situations, if we get certain coverage that we think they're going to be in, we're going to try to take advantage of it.\"

\r\n\r\nThe Browns do have quality young talent that's beginning to blossom: Braylon Edwards is a deep threat who caught 61 passes with a 14.5 average per catch last year in his second pro season; Kellen Winslow led NFL tight ends with 89 catches last season, his first healthy season of three; blind-side pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks as a rookie last season; inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was second on the team in tackles last season as a rookie; safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool might be the best young tandem in the league.

\r\n\r\nThe Browns were smart enough not to rush rookie quarterback Brady Quinn into the lineup. Charlie Frye will be under center instead. And the running back is an old familiar Steelers nemesis, Jamal Lewis.

\r\n\r\nThe Browns are a blend of young prospects and veteran leaders, but they still have holes and it might be a bit early for them to come together as a cohesive unit … like the veteran and still-young Steelers.

\r\n\r\n\"What I've seen in the preseason,\" said Browns Coach Romeo Crennel, \"is a very similar Steeler team to the ones I've seen in the past. They're an aggressive and physical defense. They can run to the ball. If anything, they've probably opened it up a little bit more with more deep throws, more balls going down the field than in the past. But they look like a similar Steelers bunch to me.\"

","mobileBody":" PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger went out shopping one night this week and he saw one of his teammates at the grocery store.

\"I saw Alan,\" Roethlisberger said of Alan Faneca. \"We ended up signing autographs and stuff throughout the grocery store. People were coming up and saying, ‘You have to win or our season's over.'

\"Geez, it's the first game of the year, but we take that mentality that it's a must-win game because it's a divisional game. It is the first game and it's a start.\"

And it just might be a must-win game, for Mike Tomlin in particular. No Steelers coach has ever won his first game in Cleveland, but Tomlin's being counted on to change tradition. He's been put in charge of a team only two years removed from a Super Bowl and it's playing the team that's the consensus bottom-feeder of the AFC North Division. And no Steelers team has lost to these new Cleveland Browns and made the playoffs, so it's perhaps a must-win game if recent history is the model.

It's a young Browns team with interesting talent at key positions, but the important word is \"young.\" The offensive line, for instance, is comprised of a top-five draft pick making his first start at left tackle and an expensive free agent coming back from a knee injury to make his first start at left guard. The right guard is new and the right tackle is questionable with a concussion.

\"When you've got all those guys missing and you haven't worked together,\" said Steelers guard Kendall Simmons, \"that's trouble.\"

Cleveland is convinced the Steelers will target rookie left tackle Joe Thomas, the draft's third overall pick. But \"target\" might not be the right word for what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has in mind on his 70th birthday.

\"I don't think we're going to game-plan anything towards him,\" said defensive end Brett Keisel. \"Yeah, I think (LeBeau) just wants us to get after him. It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to run everything around him, it just means when we get a one-on-one block against him, he expects us to win. So do I.\"

Thomas, at least, has played the entire preseason, which is more than linemates Eric Steinbach or Kevin Shaffer can say.

\"He looks okay,\" Keisel said of Thomas. \"I don't think he's as comfortable as he was at Wisconsin, but he looks okay. He's big. He has great potential in my opinion. But obviously I'm sure we're going to come at him a little bit.\"

The Browns have a rookie starter on defense, too. Eric Wright was the Browns' second-round draft pick, who would've been a first-rounder had he not had such a troubled college career. But he's flashed that first-round talent this preseason and the Browns believe he's another key piece to the future. The future, of course, starts Sunday against Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

\"He looks good. He's aggressive. Still, it's his first game,\" said Ward. \"We've got to see if we can exploit that and take advantage of it. We've done that. We've got some plays and hopefully we can take advantage of his inexperience.\"

Ward has never gone up against a rookie starting in an opener, but he presumes Wright will have an easier time than the rookie left tackle.

\"You can always kind of hide the guy with a safety over the top,\" Ward said. \"And I see them doing it sometimes, playing cover two -- cover him by putting a safety behind him so he don't give up the big plays. But every now and then they play man to man. It depends if we call a pass play at the same time they play man to man. It's a chess game. \"We're not going to sit there and keep trying to set up things. We're still going to do what we're going to do, but in certain situations, if we get certain coverage that we think they're going to be in, we're going to try to take advantage of it.\"

The Browns do have quality young talent that's beginning to blossom: Braylon Edwards is a deep threat who caught 61 passes with a 14.5 average per catch last year in his second pro season; Kellen Winslow led NFL tight ends with 89 catches last season, his first healthy season of three; blind-side pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks as a rookie last season; inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was second on the team in tackles last season as a rookie; safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool might be the best young tandem in the league.

The Browns were smart enough not to rush rookie quarterback Brady Quinn into the lineup. Charlie Frye will be under center instead. And the running back is an old familiar Steelers nemesis, Jamal Lewis.

The Browns are a blend of young prospects and veteran leaders, but they still have holes and it might be a bit early for them to come together as a cohesive unit … like the veteran and still-young Steelers.

\"What I've seen in the preseason,\" said Browns Coach Romeo Crennel, \"is a very similar Steeler team to the ones I've seen in the past. They're an aggressive and physical defense. They can run to the ball. If anything, they've probably opened it up a little bit more with more deep throws, more balls going down the field than in the past. But they look like a similar Steelers bunch to me.\"

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