Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steelers Face Old Foe In Cleveland Sunday; Injury Updates


As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. To me that was better than being a fan of the Browns. To be a Steelers fan was to own the NFL.

You know, we always called each other a family, goodfellas. Like, you'd say to somebody: "You're gonna like this guy, he's all right. He's a Steelers fan. He's one of us." You understand? We were Steelers fans, wise guys...

The Pittsburgh Steelers will face their oldest AFC rivals again Sunday at the Mistake by the Lake as they look to keep division and playoff hopes alive. In the last nine years, since 2004, the Steelers have won all but one game (2009) in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Steelers have, in fact, have won a total of 15 out of the last 16 meetings during that time and look to maintain their success this Sunday. If they do, they will increase their series lead on the Browns (2-8) to an all-time record of 63-56 since the rivalry began in 1950.

The soft and chewy Brownies are still my favorite rivalry. I hate the Baltimore Ravens more (especially because they took my original Browns from me), but, as far back as I can remember, the Browns were always there.

I remember them going an initial 0-16 at Three Rivers Stadium.

I remember Browns personnel sneaking dirt from Cleveland and sprinkling it onto sideline of Three Rivers trying to mojo a win...to no avail.

I remember the 51-0 blowout loss in 1988. In fact, I will never forget it.

I remember the 43-0 drubbing of the new and unimproved Browns in 1999.

And I remember the three wins by three points each in 2002 culminating in Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala's go-ahead touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion to secure the playoff win.

I simply love to hate the Browns. Even with the lopsided streak of late, I still look to the season schedule as soon as it's released and seek out the Browns games first.

This version of Paul Brown's progeny might just also be another challenge for the Steelers. The Browns always play division opponents tough and always give the Steelers all they have.

With the Steelers as banged up as they are, the Browns, who've played the Ravens closely and even beaten the Cincinnati Bengals, can't be overlooked at all.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin agrees. Even though he always makes the next opponent sound like a Super Bowl team, some of the points he made regarding them were accurate. One player in particular elicited this week's Tomlinism.

To be specific, the Browns feature a very talented and dangerous rookie running back in Trent Richardson. During the post-NFL Draft summer, a name from the Browns past, legendary running back Jim Brown, called Richardson "ordinary." He has been anything but that to Tomlin's chagrin. - http://tinyurl.com/auyxgoc

Speaking of names from the past, the Steelers looked to their past to help aid their present. It was announced late Tuesday afternoon that they had signed wide receiver Plaxico Burress to a 1-year, $925,000 contract to supplement the receiving corps.

"He's in really good physical condition based on the workout that I just saw," said Tomlin. "And obviously he's no stranger to football."

When on Sirius XM radio, Tomlin also said that Plax worked his camp with him this past offseason. Additionally, he's been working out in Florida, as Mike Wallace did during his holdout.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he can still do because, taking into account his height and his hands, he's a very good red zone target and the Steelers are already working on just such packages for him. - http://tinyurl.com/bemyya2

He also sounds less like the Divo he was when he was in Pittsburgh before and in his first few years in New York. He sounds more mature and eager to contribute. Like a good fella.

"Feels great to be back, comfort level here with a lot of the guys, I'm anxious to get back to playing football," Plax said.

He also said that he doesn't think he's "been around a collection of better receivers and that says a lot....Knock some dust off the old No. 80 jerseys and let's go to work!" - http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8660452/plaxico-burress-pittsburgh-steelers-ready-get-back-field

His new and old teammates are buying into it as well.

"He's a great asset," Emmanuel Sanders pointed out. "He can stretch the field vertically and be a big red zone threat for us."

Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton also said of Plax: "He's a good locker room guy, a good guy to have around. I think he's always been misunderstood by people."

Plax will have another good locker room guy throwing the ball to him as Godfather Charlie Batch will be starting against Cleveland Sunday.

But with the loss of 2nd-string Byron Leftwich for the next few weeks, the Steelers went out and signed quarterback Brian Hoyer to provide a back up. Hoyer addressed the media before Wednesday's practice at the South Side facility. - http://tinyurl.com/bbdw6kw

Hoyer was brought in because of his football smarts and because he can pick things up quickly on limited reps, according to Tomlin. A solid signing, even if he is only going to be in Pittsburgh for about four weeks.

Without getting into too deep of an analysis, this should be another good Steelers-Browns game. They'll be ready for their longest standing rival. Save their three-year hiatus (1996-98), Steelers-Browns is also the oldest AFC rivalry.

Years ago, they were one of the best teams in the NFL. Spit-shined and polished NFL Trophies sit in their facilities. But that was before the AFL-NFL merger. In the Super Bowl era, they have no Rings.

Win or lose, though, I know I'll remember this game.

Now, go home, Cleveland, and get your fu**ing shine box.

~

TIDBITS: INJURIES - Big Ben was re-examined and is improving. Was not wearing a sling on Wednesday and was even seen holding a cup of coffee in his right hand as well as talking on the phone. - http://tinyurl.com/b8lsxru

~

Isaac Redman has been progressing through concussion tests, and one more is scheduled for Thursday.

~

Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert will start individual work this week. Troy is progressing, but is still questionable at this point. None will play Sunday.

~

David DeCastro, on IR-designated to return, practiced Wednesday for the first time since injuring his knee.

Per the Steelers, they have 21 days from Wednesday, Nov. 21, to put DeCastro on the active roster or he has to be placed on season-ending IR. They can, however, activate him at any point during the next three weeks. - http://tinyurl.com/agrp357

~

Byron Leftwich believes he hurt ribs on the Paul Kruger "last sack", per a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Per Tomlin, he "didn't see anything" in Leftwich's performance, coupled with sideline talks, to pull him from game.

Really? Not under thrown balls? Not inaccurate balls? Not overthrown balls? Not grabbing his shoulder/rib area after virtually every throw? - http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/home/118948-morning-links-11-21-12

~

Marshall McFadden and Baron Batch get cut and then added to practice squad after clearing waivers. Jamie McCoy and Ryan Lee were released.

~

Larry Foote was on 93.7 The Fan and took umbrage with LaMarr Woodley's tweet about signing Donovan McNabb: "(He) needs to shut up and play football." - http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com/

~

Speaking of Woodley... We've all seen Ray Rice waving and then wearing a Terrible Towel as he left Heinz Field Sunday. It not only upset Steeler Nation, but it upset LaMarr Woodley as well. - http://tinyurl.com/d7hfoan

Ray Rice, however, says he meant no disrespect and explains the Terrible Towel issue. - http://tinyurl.com/askk3jp

We don't care, RR, you shouldn't even be touching one.