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News » Browns look to stop Steelers' streak

Browns look to stop Steelers' streak

Browns look to stop Steelers' streak
CLEVELAND (AP) - Braylon Edwards, it would seem, has it all.

The size, the speed, the strength, the swagger. The Browns' charismatic wide receiver, as gifted at stretching secondaries as he is at self-promotion, is a bona fide NFL star. Someday, he wants to take his act to Hollywood as a leading man or action hero.

In just his fourth season, Edwards has already made the Pro Bowl, set Cleveland franchise records and lived up to the hype attached to being drafted No. 3 overall.

It's all right there on his impressive, thickening resume. There's one thing missing: He's never beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And it eats at him.

"I'm sick of losing to them," Edwards said. "I've been here three years and I'm 0-and-6."

Join the club.

The Browns, who were dusted by Dallas last week in an embarrassing season-opening loss, have dropped nine straight games to Pittsburgh entering their Sunday night matchup with the Steelers - their just-down-the-Turnpike rivals who have dominated the NFL's version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

Although the Steelers only lead the series 57-55, Pittsburgh is 8-1 in Cleveland since 1999; 15-1 in the last 16 meetings; 22-3 in the past 25; and the Steelers are 48-24 against the Browns since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Rivalry? Really?

"They've been on a roll and we haven't," said Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who carried a 3-16 record into his 20th career game against the black-and-gold. "They've earned their bragging rights. They've played really solid football for a long period of time. They deserve the credit and we're just trying to win a game."

This is a crucial one for Cleveland, playing the first of five prime-time TV games.

If the Browns have any intention of moving into Pittsburgh's classy neighborhood, they can't afford an 0-2 start with both losses coming at home. While not calling it a must-win game, Cleveland general manager Phil Savage came close, describing the matchup as "almost a must win if you can have one in the second game of the year."

For the Browns, winning is essential.

They were disorganized, unprepared and thoroughly overmatched against the Cowboys, who amassed nearly 500 yards in total offense last week while silencing a Cleveland crowd that had been counting down the days until the opener for months. Cleveland's defense couldn't keep the Cowboys off the field, but the unit wasn't the Browns' only problem.

Edwards dropped a few catchable passes - one for a certain TD - as he and quarterback Derek Anderson struggled to regain the chemistry lost when both went down with injuries during the preseason. Edwards expects the Browns, who have been ravaged by injuries since training camp, will move the ball with greater ease in Week 2.

"There was some rust there, but I don't make excuses," Edwards said. "It was a bad game on my part, but the rust is getting knocked off more and more. D.A. and I have been staying after practice to get that rhythm back. We should get a much better performance out of the team as well as myself."

Topping their '08 debut will be tough for the Steelers.

They built an early 21-0 lead on the Texans and were able to rest many of their starters in the second half. Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 of 14 passes, Willie Parker ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense had five sacks as Pittsburgh served notice it isn't ready to relinquish the division title.

The Steelers know the Browns are gunning for them.

"This is one game that they circle," said wide receiver Hines Ward, who discounts the Steelers' winning streak. "Every year is a different year. The makeup of their defense, a lot of those guys weren't on those teams. So they don't know about the mystique of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry. They don't care what happened in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry eight years ago, they were all on different teams. They're worrying about this game, Sunday night."

Roethlisberger was limited in practice this week because of a sore right shoulder, but the 26-year-old, who signed an eight-year, $102 million contract with the Steelers in March, wouldn't miss this game. The former Miami of Ohio star is 7-0 in his career against the Browns, a team that passed him up in the 2004 draft to take tight end Kellen Winslow.

Big Ben has had some close calls against the Browns, who have had the Steelers in trouble and only needed a big play to finish them off. But Roethlisberger has always been able to slip out of a lineman's grasp to avoid a sack to complete a long pass downfield or scramble for a first down.

Steelers defensive end Nick Eason, who spent three years with the Browns, remembers Roethlisberger's knack for making an escape.

"One play in particular, I actually had Ben," Eason said. "He faked the ball and I grabbed him and let him go. He still had the ball and threw it out of bounds, kept the drive going and they got a score. I went home, went to the grocery store, stayed out of sight, out of mind. They take it very seriously up there (in Cleveland). This is their Super Bowl."

Not quite. But close.

Dawson has grown to appreciate the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry. During his first season with the expansion Browns in 1999, Dawson kicked a winning field goal in the final seconds for a rare victory at Three Rivers Stadium, where Cleveland went 16 years (1970-86) without winning.

"Any time you beat those guys it's a great feeling," he said, "and every time you lose, it's terrible."

Edwards knows the feeling well. Like Dawson, he has become more aware of what the rivalry means to the two proud rust-belt cities and their rabid fans. Twice a year, it's the only game that matters and Edwards is tired of being on the losing end.

"We've been going at it for a long time now," he said. "You see the names who have been a part of the rivalry, that battle, that tradition. To be a part of that, you definitely want some Ws on your record. When you meet with the greats or the guys who played in the rivalry, you want to be able to have something to say back.

"You don't want to say, 'Yeah, we got beat every time we played them."'

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 12, 2008

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