Steeler linebacker Greg Lloyd lets pads do talking

January 06, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

Witness(es) for the Defense:

Greg Lloyd knows all about the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

"It goes back to the days when the players weren't even born," says the Pittsburgh linebacker, who will face the Browns tomorrow in an AFC playoff game. "We get all the trash talking when we go up there and our fans can't wait to return the favor when they come down here."

Lloyd observed and listened for nine seasons, has sort of gotten a kick out of it but has chosen not to take part. "I don't think the players make more out of it than it is," he said. "I've always found that if you start talking it only makes the other guy play harder."

After graduating Fort Valley (Ga.) State, it sounds as if Greg did graduate work at the Teddy Roosevelt School of Diplomacy: Walk (and talk) softly and carry a big stick.

"We've played Cleveland twice already [and won], so there aren't a whole lot of guys who will be fooled by anything going on," he surmises. "We go out, line up and say, 'Here we are, stop us.'

"We [the defense] set the tone for the game," says Greg proudly. "We don't put any pressure on our offense. Whatever we can get out of them [point-wise] is fine. We get 14 or 17 and we don't think we'll get beat."

In 10 games this season, the defense allowed 14 points or less. Pittsburgh went 12-4, beating Cleveland twice, 17-10 and 17-7. "In football, you don't have to say anything," said Lloyd. "We'll just put the pads on them. Let the pads do the talking." It'll be loud.

* Dave Wannstedt looks at the point spread separating his team, the Chicago Bears, and their opponent tomorrow, the San Francisco 49ers, and doesn't cringe. It's a couple of touchdowns, a couple of points after and even a safety thrown in for good measure.

He might have said, "Hmmm, 16 points, wasn't that what the Baltimore Colts were favored by, or thereabouts, against the New York Jets in Super Bowl III?" Instead, he said, "San Francisco has been beaten this year. It can happen."

At the same time, the Bears' second-year coach realizes, "it probably would be one of the bigger upsets in the NFL, recently, if we could pull it off."

Think about it: The potent 49ers. Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the rest of those guns, nine Pro Bowlers in all. The Candlestick quagmire. Not only great players, Frisco executes so well and they're motivated, not having been Super Bowl champs for a while.

"You'd be an idiot to have a whole lot of confidence after watching the 49ers on film, they're so sound offensively and defensively," continued the coach. "But we're not worrying about them. We just want everyone around here feeling good about themselves and what they can do. We can play solid ball."

The Bears certainly were on their game and accomplished this when they went to Minnesota and demolished the Vikings, 35-18. They made big plays, recovering two fumbles, one for a touchdown, and picking off two Warren Moon passes.

Wannstedt says: "We call it the 'Bear Factor.' You know, we can't do this, we can't do that; we're always hearing about what we can't do. But get to the playoffs and you can't win just with offense, just with defense or a kicking game, you have to work well in all areas."

San Francisco lost to the Chiefs and Eagles early, then ran off 10 straight. It lost to Minnesota the last week, a team the Bears bamboozled just a few days ago. "You're not going to beat a great team like they are with a couple of crazy plays," said Wannstedt. "We weren't expected to win last week and we won soundly."

* A team with as tough an assignment as the Bears is the Packers and coach Mike Holmgren, 10-point 'dogs in Dallas Sunday. "It's the same Cowboys team we've played the last three times we've met and, with each game, we've played them better," said the coach.

"First time we played them as world champs we were intimidated, but that's no longer a problem. Each time you get beat by a team, the odds flip in your favor a little bit. But are we good enough to compete with the best? Our guys feel pretty good about it."

And that's without super receiver Sterling Sharpe, best pass catcher for the Pack since Don Hutson. "Without Sterling [career-threatening neck injury], I'm sure everyone will raise their level of play." How high is the question.

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