Steelers try to keep rivalry one-sided
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Hines Ward doesn’t see dominating the Cleveland Browns as simply a part of his job, but a civic duty.
“Our fans tend to work better on Monday any time we get a chance to beat up on (them),” the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver said with a laugh.
Or Friday, in this case.
The ever-diplomatic Ward is kidding, of course. True, the streaking Steelers (9-3) have turned the series with their longtime rivals into a decidedly one-sided affair heading into Thursday night’s game at Heinz Field.
Yet ask Ward which of the two dozen games he’s played against the Browns (4-8) stands out, and the 14-year veteran quickly points to Cleveland’s only win in the last 15 meetings, a 13-6 victory two years ago that effectively ended Pittsburgh’s bid for a playoff berth and consecutive Super Bowl titles.
“They have beat us in some cases where we felt like we could just beat them just because we’ve had success over the years,” Ward said.
The Steelers have won seven of their last eight following a 2-2 start and need to keep the pressure on Baltimore in the race for the AFC North title.
Pittsburgh put together perhaps its best performance of the season in a 35-7 beatdown of Cincinnati last week. The defense shut down the upstart Bengals behind James Harrison’s three sacks while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a pair of scores.
It’s proof, the Steelers insist, that they haven’t played their best football yet. Maybe, but their best football might not be required against the Browns, who have looked overwhelmed and overmatched against quality opponents.
Pulling off an upset on national television would do more than give first-year head coach Pat Shurmur the signature victory he so desperately craves, but also provide quarterback Colt McCoy with a much-needed boost.
McCoy is 0-7 against AFC North opponents in his brief career.