Steel­ers look to ex­tend surge vs. road-weary Browns

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Sports - BY WILL GRAVES

The faces change, some­times at a dizzy­ing rate. The re­sults when the Cleve­land Browns visit the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers do not.

Each fall the Browns make their way to Heinz Field, typ­i­cally with a new quar­ter­back and fre­quently with a new head coach in tow.

And each trip ends in sim­i­lar fash­ion: with a quiet bus ride back home af­ter an­other sting­ing de­feat in a ri­valry that hasn’t felt like much of one for more than two decades.

Your turn Baker May­field. And maybe your last chance, Hue Jack­son.

Cleve­land’s rookie quar­ter­back will get his ini­tial shot at the Steel­ers (3-2-1) on Sun­day when the Browns (2-4-1) try win in Pitts­burgh for the first time in 15 years.

It’s a drought that spans nearly a dozen quar­ter­backs – from Jeff Gar­cia to Colt McCoy to DeSh- one Kizer – and seven head coaches – from Butch Davis to Pat Shur­mur to Jack­son, who has yet to win a game on the road dur­ing his ten­ure (0-19) and whose sta­tus is shaky at best.

Un­like his pre­de­ces­sors, how­ever, May­field brings a cer­tain swag­ger that’s hard to quan­tify but also hard to miss.

Pitts­burgh safety Sean Davis couldn’t help but no­tice it on film, par­tic­u­larly the way May­field bounced up last week in Tampa Bay af­ter get­ting hit by Buc­ca­neers safety Jor­dan Whitehead , a play that the NFL ad­mit­ted should have drawn a flag

but did not.

“He got trucked but he got up and ran into the de­fender’s face,” Davis said with a laugh. “I kind of like that. When I hit him, he’s not go­ing to run in my face.”

Davis then laughed be­fore stress­ing “I do like him. He’s a good ballplayer. He’s put some good stuff on tape.”

So, though, have the first-place Steel­ers. Pitts­burgh has won two straight fol­low­ing a bumpy 1-2-1 start, a stretch that be­gan with a strange 21-all tie in Cleve­land in Week 1.

The Steel­ers turned it over six times in the rain and wind, in­clud­ing a fourth-quar­ter fum­ble by run­ning back James Con­ner that sparked a late Browns’ rally and spoiled an oth­er­wise spec­tac­u­lar day by Con­ner in his first NFL start.

Seven weeks later, Con­ner is still atop the depth chart and thriv­ing in the ab­sence of Le’Veon Bell, who still hasn’t signed his one-year fran­chise ten­der. The way Con­ner is play­ing – he al­ready has three games of at least 100 yards rush­ing and two touch­downs – there’s no telling what Bell’s role will be when­ever he both­ers to show up.

In many ways, the Steel­ers have al­ready moved on from Bell. A vic­tory com­ing off the bye week against an op­po­nent that’s of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance through the years would pro­vide a mo­men­tum boost as Hal­loween nears. Yet Cleve­land be­lieves this isn’t the Same Old Browns. Only one way to find out.

Some things to look for as Pitts­burgh looks for some sep­a­ra­tion in the jum­bled AFC North while the Browns try to end a 24-game road los­ing streak, the sec­ond-long­est in NFL his­tory.

Ben be­ing Ben: Pitts­burgh QB Ben Roeth­lis­berger is an Ohio na­tive and was passed over by the Browns dur­ing the 2004 draft. Cleve­land opted for tight end Kellen Winslow with the sixth over­all pick while the Steel­ers scooped up Roeth­lis­berger five se­lec­tions later.

All Roeth­lis­berger, 36, has done is go 21-2-1 in 24 starts against the Browns, and that doesn’t in­clude the 2016 vic­tory in which he came off the bench in re­lief of Landry Jones.

Still, he’s ea­ger to atone for his four-in­ter­cep­tion per­for­mance in the opener.

“I hate when we turn the foot­ball over,” said Roeth­lis­berger, who is tied for the NFL lead in yards pass­ing per game (339). “I hate when we lose foot­ball games, but if you look at pos­i­tives I think we are get­ting bet­ter ev­ery week.”

FRANK VIC­TORES AP

Pitts­burgh Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger en­ters Sun­day’s game with a 21-2-1 record in 24 starts against the Browns.

MARK LOMOGLIO AP

Rookie Baker May­field will try to get the Cleve­land Browns to do some­thing nearly a dozen quar­ter­backs be­fore him could not in 15 years: win in Pitts­burgh.

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