Rivalry still special for Browns
BEREA, Ohio — Asked about his success against the Steelers, which includes returning three kickoffs for touchdowns since 2006, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs credited the emotion he carried into those matchups.
"We really get up for this game," Cribbs said about Sunday's 1 p.m. contest against the Steelers at Heinz Field.
"I can't be out in the street or in a public place without hearing it from fans that they really want a win. You hear it all season and at camp. They're not even talking about our first game sometimes. They're just talking about the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Browns matchup. Everyone realizes how important this game is for us."
Cribbs had a 98-yard kickoff return in the Steelers' 27-14 win over Cleveland last season. In a late-season rematch, Cribbs rushed eight times for 87 yards, mostly out of the Wildcat formation, in the Browns' 13-6 upset victory.
Cribbs took offense when reporters asked him this week if the Browns have confidence in rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, who will make his first NFL start against the Steelers. McCoy has been thrust into the starting role with injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace.
"He's well-equipped to go in against the so-called big, bad Steelers and help us win," said Cribbs, who couldn't resist taking a dig at the Browns' biggest rival and toughest opponent.
As much as defeating the Baltimore Ravens means to the Steelers, that's how much knocking off the Steelers means to the Browns, who snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Steelers last season.
"It was something that we looked forward to doing in getting over the hump. It was something that we needed," Cribbs said. "It was a momentum-changer for us. We look forward to doing the same this year."
Second-year linebacker Marcus Benard, who didn't play in the first meeting against the Steelers, recorded two sacks in the second game.
"That was the first thing anyone told me when I came here, to beat Pittsburgh," Benard said. "I didn't quite understand, but that week, I understood."
For kicker Phil Dawson, the Browns' longest tenured player who joined the team in 1999, it was only his third win in 20 meetings against the Steelers.
Despite being on the losing end so many times, Dawson said Steelers-Browns week has always held special meaning for him.
"That's one of those things that makes this week fun," Dawson said. "We all have great jobs in this locker room. It's a blessing to be in this league. But a lot of us long for that feeling you had emotionally in college. When you have that rivalry, the tradition of two programs going against one another.
"As a guy that's been in this league a long time, it's fun to have that twice a year because some of those other games, you kind of feel like you're going to work. This feels like playing that game in the front yard you grew up playing, when you told your friend, 'run around the mailbox and I'll throw it to you.'"
Colt McCoy, who starred at Texas, said the atmosphere entering tomorrow's game reminds him of Texas-Oklahoma week.
"Very similar if you want to compare it to college," McCoy said.
"It's a special game for the people in Cleveland," Dawson said. "When I got here in '99, the one opponent every one seemed to talk about was the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having been here for 12 years, that definitely has continued to be the case. You can't go anywhere — whether it's a gas station, supermarket, whatever — without someone telling you, 'beat the Steelers, just find a way to beat the Steelers.'"