Newly acquired nose tackle Shaun Rogers was about the only defensive Browns player who showed flashes of mediocrity in Sunday's 28-10 whipping by Dallas - save LB Andra Davis. Rogers is going to have to come up big against Pittsburgh's interior line to help establish a pass rush if Cleveland wants to avoid an 0-2 start.
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton commented this off-season that former University of Texas teammate Shaun Rogers is motivated and healthy, and could end up being the best defensive lineman in the AFC North.
Strong words from a large man.
Regardless, Rogers didn't tip the scales in the favor of the Browns defense Sunday, as Cleveland was gorged for 487 total yards, 30 first downs and converted 8 of 11 third-down attempts. The Browns biggest off-season acquisition had four tackles, as the Cowboys averaged a ridiculous 5.3 yards per carry.
None of these stats bode well for the Browns, who have playoff aspirations, and AFC North championship predictions. Rogers was brought in to shore up a run defense that ranked 27th in the NFL last season. Dallas is one of the best offensive teams in the game, but even considering that, their dividends for the addition of Rogers and defensive end Corey Williams are clearly not showing a return on their investment.
It gives the Steelers pause for thought, considering Hampton's proclamation. If Rogers is now motivated (still trying to see why anyone would believe that. Was the two-time Pro Bowl player not motivated to play for the Lions?), and he really is the player his college teammate says he is, he should be enough to anchor Cleveland's 3-4 defense, and provide a hefty dent to the Steelers' rushing statistics.
In theory, anyway. A nose tackle's primary function is to collapse the offensive line from the inside, providing a lane for the linebackers to fly to the ball carrier. It starts with Rogers, and he and the defensive ends, Robaire Smith and Williams, are going to have to command attention if the Browns are going to hope to stop an offense that had an impressive debut of its own in Week 1.
Running back Willie Parker ran all over Houston's vaunted rush defense, as Pittsburgh's offensive line got great push up front. Cleveland, player-for-player, has less talent than Houston's line, but Cleveland got whipped by Pittsburgh in Week 1 last year, and came back to win 10 of its last 15 games. The Steelers have to know they have a helmet-on-helmet advantage in the running game, and will use Parker and Rashard Mendenhall to take the Browns' home field advantage away.
They'll pass in spots as well. Look for the Steelers to continue to spread the field and attack vertically. Currently, both starting safeties, Sean Jones and Brodney Pool are listed on the team's injury report. Jones is probable despite a knee injury, and Pool suffered a concussion against Dallas, and is questionable for Sunday night's game. Considering those limitations, Rogers is going to have to get penetration in an effort to jump-start their beleagured pass rush, because Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the vision and the weapons to pick apart their suspect secondary all game.
He had six touchdowns (a seventh came on the ground) and an interception against Cleveland last year. That was without a motivated Shaun Rogers.
Let's see how much that matters come Sunday.
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