St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

NFL

Talk heats up between rivals, or not

The Browns-Steelers tussle renews with both sides making claims and denials about trash talk.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003


PITTSBURGH -- Nothing defines a good rivalry like trash talking.

In the case of the Browns and Steelers, the perception of it is enough.

Steelers-Browns may lack the longevity of Bears-Packers, and many Cleveland fans say the real rivalry died when Art Modell fled to Baltimore with the original Browns in 1995. But geographic proximity and divisional familiarity ensures that every game between the teams holds the promise of something extra.

Today's AFC wild-card matchup, the only one of four playoff games featuring division foes, is the third meeting this season.

And it's as much about what was said last week as what was not.

Did Browns middle linebacker Earl Holmes really leave choice words on the answering machines of several former Pittsburgh teammates? What was Steelers safety Lee Flowers' real intent in saying the Browns favored today's starting quarterback, Kelly Holcomb, over usual starter Tim Couch?

And were the Steelers kidding when they accused the Browns of intentionally putting 12 men on the field to sack and rattle Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox in the teams' last meeting?

Even the trash talking has been disputed for fear it will give one club an edge.

Holmes, for example, admits leaving messages for former teammates, but when the story came out that he was "talking trash," Holmes quickly denied it.

"I'm very happy I'm going back to Pittsburgh," Holmes said. "I can't talk trash to those guys. I love those guys."

Flowers might have no love for the Browns, but his seemingly complimentary comments about Holcomb last week were interpreted as fighting words by the quarterback's teammates.

Flowers, who knows several Browns well, was accused of trying to stir things up when he said Holcomb was better and that he could tell Cleveland players and fans prefer him over the injured Couch.

"It isn't true," Browns receiver Kevin Johnson said. "(Flowers) does an excellent job of saying things to get things going, and we're keeping our mouths shut. It will be an excellent opportunity for us to go out and shut those guys down."

As for that penalty for extra defenders on Nov. 3 at Cleveland? Browns coach Butch Davis just laughed.

Said Maddox: "That's what you expect in a rivalry of this sort. Everybody's going to pull out all the stops, especially in a playoff game."

While the Steelers, winners 16-13 in overtime on Sept. 29 at home and 23-20 in Cleveland, are favored and have won five of their last six, the Browns have a few things going for them, most notably a league-best 6-2 road record.

Cleveland, in its first playoff game since returning as an expansion team in 1999, is used to pressure, having had 12 games come down to the final minute.

It is also a different team from the one that began the season 2-4.

The Browns run defense has ranked near the bottom of the league all season but it was solid Sunday in a win over the Falcons, stopping Michael Vick twice at the 1-foot line in the final 45 seconds.

Still, the Steelers have defeated the Browns in Pittsburgh in nine of the past 10 games and are 4-0 against the Browns under Davis.

They also are determined, remembering the embarrassment of last season when they made well-publicized plans to travel to the Super Bowl but lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

"Everybody's pretty hungry around here," said Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress, who joins Pro Bowl selection Hines Ward in one of the best receiving tandems in the league.

"I think there's more of a focus. It's more of a day-to-day thing for us now. Last year we were already thinking Super Bowl (and) that was one of the things that hurt us."

"We're the team that nobody's talking about," Ward said. " ... That's good. That's how we want it."

Browns at Steelers:

OF NOTE: The Browns would have had a tough time winning even with QB Tim Couch. There's little drop-off from Couch to backup Kelly Holcomb, but the Steelers defense is vastly improved and likely will give fits to anyone under center. The Steelers have a lot of weapons and a lot of ways to use them, which will be too much for the Browns defense. The only way the Steelers lose is if they beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. Still, expect it to be fairly close.

FRY'S PROMISE: Steelers 26, Browns 21.

-- DARRELL FRY

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright
 

From the Times sports desk
  • Hubert Mizell: Overpaid ... underworked?

  • NFL
  • Falcons pack wallop
  • Jets fly on; Dungy grounded again
  • Jets won't stop until job is done
  • Familiarity feels right to Browns
  • Talk heats up between rivals, or not
  • With TD, Favre in top group
  • Turnabout is rich for Giants DE
  • Fassel takes charge in playoff run

  • College football
  • Grossman will leave Florida to enter draft
  • Fiesta Bowl simply stunning
  • McGahee will return after surgery on knee

  • Season on the bubble
  • SIU 74, Illinois State 65

  • In brief
  • Rant/Rave
  • Defending champ pulls out of Australian Open

  • NHL
  • Slap shots
  • Belfour makes 50 saves to carry Leafs

  • College basketball
  • Undefeated LSU beats Texas for 2nd time in 8 days
  • UConn women's streak lives after OT victory
  • 1st game in UM's new home is a win
  • No. 1 Alabama rebounds with 65-58 victory
  • Pickett leads FSU in easy win over Virginia Tech 76-69
  • Oklahoma State's D controls BYU 78-65

  • Parimutuels
  • KL Bahama Boyd takes inside track to run away at Inaugural

  • Colleges
  • Frayer's Olympic dream comes with a price tag

  • Running
  • Husband, wife shine in debut
  • UNF student wins despite his wrong turn
  • Organizers exceed goal of 10,000 participants

  • NBA
  • Nets toe the line to top Magic

  • Preps
  • Gaither's title bid falls short
  • Wharton can't keep pace
  • Comeback Vikings edge Patriots
  • Clearwater impressive against nation's best
  • Panthers, Pirates enjoy wins

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report
  • Cold winds haven't stoppedhot bites around many piers

  • Your turn
  • Glazers need to be grounded

  • Rays
  • Daulton again faces DUI charge
  • Rays calling this a produce market

  • Bucs
  • Defensive trio tops All-Pros
  • Surprised Bucs start new plan
  • Could Bucs and Parcells work a trade?

  • Lightning
  • Lightning comes up short against Blues
  • Sarich keeps eye on youngsters


  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts