PITTSBURGH -- One team's ZIP code has changed, but the basic feelings remain the same between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, formerly the Cleveland Browns.
"I've had beer thrown at me, people trying to spit on me. They've tried to hit me with those yellow towels, and they have said things about my family, including my mother," said Ravens offensive tackle Tony Jones. "They've got some wild fans there. Nothing will change. They know who we are."
The Ravens (1-0) will meet the Steelers (0-1) at 1 p.m. today at Three Rivers Stadium in an AFC Central matchup.
It will not have the flavor of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh games in the past 45 years because those cities were separated by just 150 miles of interstate.
But both teams still have a lot of the same players, so expect the usual trash-talking, pushing and finger-pointing. Then, when it's over, the players won't shake hands.
"We may have changed uniforms and a city, but they still got the same players in those uniforms," said Ravens center Steve Everitt. "I've gone against their nose guard, Joel Steed, many times. You don't have to tell me it's going to be an all-day affair."
Steelers quarterback Mike Tomczak said: "We realize this is the same group of players that made up the Browns. They realize we are the Steelers."
The Ravens also realize that the road to the AFC championship has gone through Pittsburgh the past two years.
The Steelers had owned the Browns in recent years, with Cleveland losing its last seven games in Pittsburgh by a combined score of 157-51.
Only once after 1989 did the Browns score more than one touchdown in Pittsburgh.
Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde had little success against the Steelers in five starts for the Browns, completing 88 of 173 passes with three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Hardly Hall of Fame material.
"They're a very good football team," Testaverde said. "But we are no longer in the past. It's a new season, we're wearing new colors, and we feel that we're a better team than we were a year ago."
The Steelers are not the same team of a season ago. They lost offensive tackle Leon Searcy to the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Neil O'Donnell and offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt to the New York Jets and halfback Bam Morris to legal troubles during the off-season.
The team's top two pass rushers from a year ago, defensive lineman Ray Seals (rotator cuff) and outside linebacker Greg Lloyd (knee), are out for the season with injuries. And then there is the quarterback controversy involving Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart and Tomczak.
Miller started last week in a 24-9 loss to Jacksonville. Tomczak will run the offense today.
"We're done with the week-to-week thing, that was never our intention," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher. "We're committed to consistency, and under the circumstances, Mike Tomczak is our quarterback because of experience."
Ravens tight end Brian Kinchen said: "They're coming off a tough loss, they're a little banged up, and we're on kind of a roll. I think they're ripe."
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda probably thinks so, too. He stopped practice Wednesday and scolded the players for not practicing hard. He repeatedly has told them about the importance of this game, how a win puts the Ravens two games up on the defending AFC champions.
"Last week, we played a conference game that could have important ramifications in the future," said Marchibroda. "This one is in the division. This one is special."
So special, in fact, that Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the Steelers' linebackers coach last season, has spent time with Testaverde, teaching him about tricks Pittsburgh has used against him in the past.
But maybe more than an impressive performance from Testaverde, the Ravens need to establish a running game. The team struggled with only 95 yards rushing last week, including 42 from Testaverde.
Everitt has seen the Steelers manhandle his team up front before. The Browns managed just 120 yards of offense against the Rod Woodson-less Steelers in a 20-3 loss last year in Pittsburgh.
"If you can't run and get behind early, then it becomes a two-minute drill, and that's when they run all those crazy blitzes at you," said Everitt. "Running the ball is the key."
Jones said: "They've had our number the last two or three years. That's a tough environment to play in, but it sure would be nice to come out of that place with a win."
Iron City smear
The Ravens (then the Cleveland Browns) have not fared well in Pittsburgh, having lost the past seven games there:
Date .. .. .. .. ..Res. .. .. .. .. ..Skinny
11/13/95 .. .. .. .20-3 .. .. ..Browns: 10 yards
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...offense in 2nd half
1/7/95 .. .. .. ...29-9* .. .. ..Steelers time of
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..possession: 42: 27
12/18/94 .. .. .. .17-7 .. .. ...Browns commit
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...three turnovers
1/2/94 .. .. .. ...16-9 .. .. ...Steelers overcome
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...9-3 halftime deficit
12/27/92 .. .. .. .23-13 .. .. ..Brister: 11
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..completions in row
12/22/91 .. .. .. .17-10 .. .....Noll's last game
.. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. .. .as Steelers coach
12/23/90 .. .. .. .35-0 .. .. ..Steelers score all 35
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...points in first half
Total .. ..157-51
* -- AFC playoff game
Pub Date: 9/08/96