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Browns defense compares well against its mirror image in Pittsburgh

Nov 21, 2013 -- 1:54pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Extra Points …

Mirror images: When Ray Horton was named defensive coordinator of the Browns, he said it would be interesting to play the Pittsburgh Steelers because he planned to install a defense the mirror image of Pittsburgh coordinator Dick LeBeau, his mentor.

Asked to give an update on the similarities, Horton said Thursday, “Probably identical. I haven’t watched them defensively this year, other than (against) Detroit and New England a little bit. But as far as alignment, calls, words, verbiage – identical.”

Statistically, the Browns have the edge in the NFL rankings:

Team                   Points     Total yards          Rushing     Passing

Browns               23.8/17th    306.5/5th          99.0/8th      207.5/4th

Steelers              24.5/19th    340.8/14th     125.2/26th   215.6/8th    

The question now is which team’s offense benefits more from practicing against a facsimile of the other team’s defense.

“I don’t think either team has an advantage,” said Horton.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner had a slightly different take.

“Sometimes we play too much into that, but there’s certain things when you look at the tape and you say, ‘We’ve seen that in practice,’” Turner said. “To me, (preparing for a game) always comes down to understanding what they’re doing, create the matchups, and then winning the matchups. I don’t think Ray can help us win any matchups, but he has helped us with going against the things they do.”

Mingo speaks: Rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo is scarcely seen in the locker room anymore during the open media period. He was surrounded when spotted on Thursday and hit with a barrage of questions about his up-and-down first season.

Some highlights from Mingo:

* On any surprises: “It’s gone the way I expected. I knew stuff was going to be different than college."

* On his sack total stalled at four: “It’s not going to be easy. This is the NFL. We’re going up against tackles that are as good or close to Joe Thomas. They’re not going to make it easy. They’re not going to let me hit the quarterback. Every week’s a different challenge. Every week I have to be on my A game to get those sacks.”

* On whether we have seen his A game yet: “We’ll find out at end of the year when we look back on it. I don’t know.”

* On his opinion of his defense against the run: “Actually it’s been good. (I’m) keeping containment, not letting guys get to the edges, no outside runs.”

Big Ben: Horton was asked about his defense “getting to” Ben Roethlisberger, and he launched into quite a tribute to the Pittsburgh quarterback.

“Getting to him?” Horton said. “I would say getting to him is the first step. Getting him down is something totally different.

“Ben is … as far as the most elusive quarterback, I don’t think there has been a better one. Fran (Tarkenton) was different because he could scramble around, but he didn’t take the hits and shake off the hits like Ben. I don’t think there has been a quarterback in the league that has taken unabated shots and shrugged guys off and made more big plays than Ben in the history of the league.

“Fran would run. Roger Staubach would run. Ben is the biggest, strongest, most mobile quarterback. I tell our players this: he was a shortstop in baseball; you’d think he be a pitcher, a point guard in basketball; you’d think he be a center, and he punts left-footed. So this guy is the most athletic guy we face. Most of his big plays came after contact on him. Most guys are shocked by this guy’s strength and athletic ability.”

Ben rememberrrrrrrs: Roethlisberger’s kryptonite? Brutally cold weather.

The Findlay, OH-native is 15-1 against the Browns. His only loss occurred in a Thursday night game in Cleveland on Dec. 10, 2009. Temperatures that night were 15 degrees, but wind gusts up to 45 mph made it seem like minus-6.

Roethlisberger was sacked eight times and held out of the end zone in a 13-6 Browns’ win.

“That was definitely the coldest game I’ve ever played in,” Roethlisberger said this week. “You couldn’t wait for the series to be over so you could go sit on the heated bench. That was a crazy game, on a Thursday night. I remember the weather more than anything. Obviously losing hurt, too.”

Forecasts for Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium call for snow showers and 27 degrees with up to 20 mph winds.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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