By Teresa Varley
Cornerback Deshea Townsend has played in his share of Steelers-Browns games and it doesn't matter to him if the Steelers have won the last nine games or 15 out of the last 16, he knows the rivalry is just as strong today as it ever has been and it's going to be a battle on Sunday night in Cleveland.
"The people and fans really get into it," said Townsend. "It's tough to go out and let your fans down. You want to make sure you win that game.
"It has been picking up as of late because Cleveland has improved so much and it's been a tougher game."
Townsend expects nothing less than the Browns fans to be fired up on Sunday night and he knows that will help motivate the Browns players. But it also will motivate the Steelers. He loves the atmosphere in Cleveland, right down to the 'dawg pound' where the fans are right on top of the field.
"You run down to the end zone and they are barking at you," said Townsend. "It's a good feeling; you only get to see that at certain places. It's a great environment to play in, especially if you are a competitor. You can feel it in the air when you go to Cleveland. I am sure they can feel it too when they come here. You can tell the fans don't like you when you are on the road. That makes it that much more important. You want to go there and see if you can make them quiet."
Orpheus Roye might understand more than anyone what the rivalry is all about. He has played on both sides. Roye was drafted by the Steelers in 1996 and then signed with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2000. Roye was released by the Browns this year and re-signed with the black and gold during training camp.
"It's real big, especially in Cleveland," said Roye. "They are the underdog every time they play the Steelers. It's a rivalry, but a rivalry where the Steelers have been the big dog. Until Cleveland gets over the hump it's going to be that way, one sided.
"That's the game they really look forward to, that's the game they really want them to win. The rivalry is real big in Cleveland. The whole city gets rammed up for the game. It's a game to get the team over the hump. It's a game they really want."
One thing that will be certain is that it will be a physical game. Pride is on the line. It's a game between two teams who are fighting to be the top contender in the AFC North.
"The whole week your mind set is being physical," said Roye. "Everyone wants to work hard, hit the weight room. In Cleveland it was a mental focus to beat them because that is the team that has always been in their way. They are going to be over there getting prepared, doing everything they can to win this game."
There has been a lot of talk about the Browns being the team to beat in the AFC North this year by football analysts and the like. Heck, even Mike Tomlin gave the Browns their props before the season started.
"They a have a lot of great players," said Townsend. "They are a great team on the rise. We feel like we are still a pretty good team here in Pittsburgh. When people write something, that is what we have to believe. When people write they are the next coming, we must believe that they are the next coming. That's how we approach it."
And Roye will approach it with even a little bit more. When he was with Cleveland he still had respect for the Steelers, an organization he said was good to him, but he always wanted to do his best against his former team. Now it's the Browns he wants to do his best against.
"It's a division game, plus it's a team I used to play for so I am excited for this game," said Roye. "It's a game I just got up for to compete with the guys I knew. It's going to be a good game. It's going to be a physical game. They should be ready for us. And we will be ready for them."