Friday, October 3, 2003
Browns hope to stop Cowher's success
BEREA, Ohio -- Sentimental softy that he is, Steelers coach
Bill Cowher has a wooden chair in his Pittsburgh office from the
old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
It's a mustard-colored reminder of Cowher's days in Cleveland,
where he played, began raising a family and started his NFL
"Cleveland," he said, "is special to me."
Except on Sundays. That souvenir seat isn't the only thing from
Cleveland that Cowher owns.
Now in his 12th season as Steelers coach, Cowher is 14-4 against
the Browns, including a 2-0 mark in playoff games and a 5-0 record
against Cleveland coach Butch Davis.
Cowher's success -- the Steelers have won six straight over the
Browns -- has made the NFL's fiercest rivalry one-sided in recent
years, tilting it to the other side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania
The Browns (1-3) are hoping to end the Steelers' stranglehold
Sunday night in a nationally televised game at Heinz Field.
Cleveland's visit will be its first since Jan. 4, when the Browns
blew a 17-point lead in the second half and lost 36-33 in the AFC
Nothing new there. The Browns have perfected the art of the
close loss to Pittsburgh.
Last season, they went 0-3 against the Steelers (2-2), losing
each game by three points. In the past two years, they've lost
twice to Pittsburgh in overtime, once when Phil Dawson's potential
game-winning field goal was blocked in OT.
Offensive tackle Barry Stokes said it's time to reverse the
"We're going to get out there and beat the Steelers," said
Stokes, whose practice time this week was limited by a sprained
right ankle. "I can already sense it in the locker room. You feel
it when you're going to have a good game. The energy is there."
It's just that the points haven't been. Beyond their current
losing streak, the Browns are just 2-13 in their last 15 games
But to a man, Cleveland's players don't believe the Steelers
hold any kind of psychological advantage over them. They insist
they don't get spooked or mesmerized by those black helmets or
yellow Terrible Towels.
"I don't see that happening with this team," said quarterback
Tim Couch, who will make his second straight start for the injured
Kelly Holcomb. "I don't think anyone is any less confident because
we haven't had any success against them. We've gone out there and
put up good numbers against them.
"We've done some decent things against them, so we feel like we
can go in there and get a win."
Unlike Davis, Chris Palmer had some success against the
Steelers, going 2-2 in his two seasons as Browns coach.
Palmer, too, may have uncovered a secret to offsetting
Pittsburgh's ball-swarming defense. In his second matchup against
the Steelers in 1999, Palmer used multiple wide-receiver
formations, helping the Browns get a 16-15 win.
It's a strategy that wide receiver Kevin Johnson thinks other
teams have mimicked in recent years against the Steelers.
"He came up with great game plans," Johnson said of Palmer,
now Houston's offensive coordinator. "I think he was one of the
first guys to spread them out."
That worked for the Browns last January before the Steelers
rallied in the second half, scoring 22 unanswered points to hand
Cleveland yet another heartbreaking loss.
Cowher has been on both sides. As a backup linebacker and
special teams star for Cleveland, he never won in Pittsburgh. The
Browns lost 16 straight games at Three Rivers Stadium from 1970-85.
"It's a special rivalry," he said. "I really do enjoy playing
in this game."