Lewis set for another run at tough Steelers
Of his more than 10,000 career yards, Browns running back Jamal Lewis has fought hardest for the ones against the guys wearing black and gold. Holes are hard to come by against the Super Bowl champion Steelers. "You come out with 70 yards, that's a good day against Pittsburgh," Lewis said. The durable Lewis has 36 100-yard games on his resume, but only one of them came against the Steelers - in 2003 when he played for Baltimore. Running on fresh legs after missing two games with a hamstring injury, Lewis broke loose for 117 yards last week in an ugly 6-3 win over Buffalo. Lewis knows he and Cleveland's offensive line have their work cut out this Sunday, when the Browns (1-4) visit the Steelers (3-2) and a Pittsburgh defense allowing 70 rushing yards per game. This will be Lewis' 17th game against the Steelers. They've all followed a pattern. "It's physical and you know it's going to be a dogfight all game," he said Thursday "I know those guys. They know me and it's always fun to play them. You know what they are going to bring. You know they are going to do and it's just one of those games where you know you've got to bring your hard hat. "It's going to be a 60-minute fight." In recent years, the Steelers have been landing knockouts. Pittsburgh has won 11 straight games over Cleveland and 17 of 18 since 2000, a dominant stretch that has turned one of the NFL's fiercest rivalries into a laughable one-sided rout. The Browns haven't beaten the Steelers since Oct. 5, 2003, when Tim Couch was Cleveland's quarterback and had one of the games of his life. For the Browns to win Sunday, they'll have to beat the Steelers at their own game: run the ball, stop the run. The jersey numbers may have changed a bit in Pittsburgh, but Lewis sees the Steelers of today as the same team he faced as a rookie in 2000. "They have a great, sound group and they play their positions well," he said. "They don't really make too many mistakes. Everybody plays their part and plays their position and that's what makes it tough sledding as far as running the ball. At the same time, we just gotta keep eating at it, keep eating at it, taking the 2- and 3-yard gains and whatever they give you and just hope that you catch them in a bad position." That hasn't happened often for Lewis. He's averaged just 58 yards per game against the Steelers, whose blitz-happy defense has been shutting down running games for decades. "They stick with their assignments," Lewis said. "They don't change up and do anything different. They know what they're doing. The guys that they have there have been doing it for a while. That's what they do, they run the football and play great defense." The Steelers will be without talented defensive end Aaron Smith, done for the season with a shoulder injury. But hard-hitting, ball-hawking, hair-flowing safety Troy Polamalu is expected to return after missing four games with a knee injury. Lewis was Cleveland's only dependable weapon last week against the Bills. Quarterback Derek Anderson threw for only 23 yards and Browns receivers dropped nine passes. The only completion Anderson was sure of was turning and handing the ball to Lewis, who broke tackles and ran like he hasn't all season. "He looked really good out there," said Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas. "He was seeing the holes and hitting them, and then once he got through them, he was finding that second hole to make a cut and moving through guys and carrying guys with him. That's what Jamal does well, he wears defenses down." Cleveland's offensive line is starting to jell. Two weeks ago, Jerome Harrison rumbled for 121 yards against Cincinnati. With Lewis getting his first 100-yard game since the finale in 2007, the Browns have had back-to-back 100-yard games by different runners for the first time since Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack did it in 1985. Lewis and Harrison lined up at times together last week and there's a good chance the Browns will use that package against the Steelers. "Jerome's a great player," Lewis said. "He adds something different to what I can do. He's a good change of pace and just a different style of running back. It's a good 1-2 punch." Connecting with a first punch would help the Browns end their winless drought against Pittsburgh. Lewis is approaching this game the way approaches all of them - shoulders squared, eyes up field and legs churning. The Steelers are in his path. "It's just run hard and don't back down," he said. "That's not my style and that's not what I do. I try to go in, do my part and just hold up and bring it to them and not let them bring it to us. They're going to be ready to go, like always."