Faneca did not say every team needed a rallying point such as Earl Holmes, he said that "lots of teams" need one. He didn't say the Pittsburgh Steelers needed one. While Earl is calling up all his Steelers buddies on the phone and giving them an earful, the Steelers have nothing but words of respect for the Cleveland Browns. If anything, silence is golden.
Fullback John L. Williams had this to say before the Steelers faced the Colts in the AFC Championship Game in January of 1996, ''We have a feeling of guilt from last year. The guys realize the opportunity in front of them. They're not going to put themselves in position to repeat last year."
''We have experience from last year to understand how to handle it this year,'' said tight end Jonathan Hayes about the strangely quiet Steelers locker room.
The year before, the Steelers blew a shot at the Super Bowl by losing to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship. That year there were music videos and brash talking, Earl Holmes times ten. The Steelers were looking past the Chargers and that cost them, dearly.
Fast forward to January 2003. The Steelers face a team that they have beaten twice this season already, the Cleveland Browns. Might the Steelers be forgiven for feeling a little confident?
Plaxico Burress had this to say, "If you ask me, this is probably going to be the hardest game we play. Cleveland's a divisional opponent, they know what we're going to do and we know what they're going to do."
"But that part of the season is over with," current resident loudmouth Lee Flowers added. "Thank God we got into the playoffs and have a second chance. I think we learned a lot from last year. We can't take everything for granted."
The Browns would love nothing more than an overconfident Steelers team looking ahead to a big showdown in Nashville. Unfortunately, for the Cleveland fans, the Steelers only see one game, the one this coming Sunday. The Pittsburgh locker room is once again strangely quiet. The Steelers are focused on the business at hand, occasionally glancing over their shoulders at that game against the Patriots.
Don't take the Steelers relative silence as a lack of confidence. Don't misunderstand the respect of the Browns as a sign that the Steelers feel they are the lesser team. The Steelers were the same way during the playoff push early in 1996. And like Rod Woodson's attempt to return to play after a season ending injury, expect to see Kendrell Bell out there knocking the overmatched Cleveland offensive line back on their cans.
There's no tomorrow for this team, only yesterday. There's nothing to save Bell for. There's no game beyond this one with the Browns. This year, there's no let down at home.