He's no sad sack about change Harassing QBs is Brown's new role at outside LB for Steelers

November 28, 1996|By Chuck Finder | Chuck Finder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PITTSBURGH -- This isn't the same Chad Brown the Ravens faced the second week of the season, a linebacker newly turned inside-out.

This is the NFL's fourth-leading sacker.

This is a potential Pro Bowl selection.

Greg who?

"Things are definitely going well for me," Brown said yesterday. Then he knocked twice on his wooden locker.

No rap on the fourth-year pro, but he had no previous NFL experience at outside linebacker, unless you count some rookie downs as a rush end. He started the rest of that season and the past two at inside linebacker, racking up 17 sacks and 218 tackles. Yet when All-Pro Greg Lloyd sustained a season-ending knee injury in Pittsburgh's season opener, Brown stepped outside.

There he was Monday night, sacking Miami's Dan Marino and recording two tackles despite a throbbing ankle. It still aches. But he doesn't want it to slow him down Sunday, when the Steelers (9-3) come after Vinny Testaverde and the Ravens at Memorial Stadium.

"He played hurt, he fought his way through it and still was very productive," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said of Monday night's 24-17 victory in Miami. "He's a big part of our defense. Hopefully, we can get that ankle back to 100 percent, because we're going to need him down the stretch."

Added Brown: "I wasn't a little gimpy, I was a lot gimpy. There were so many things I couldn't do. If I hadn't been hurt, I could have made a lot more plays than I did."

Still, he managed to also hurry Marino four times, giving Brown a team-high 33 quarterback pressures for the season. He ranks second on the Steelers in tackles (66), fourth in interceptions (two) and tied for first in fumbles forced and recovered (two each). He also has four batted passes and one critical role on the NFL's No. 2 defense.

Brown is starting to enjoy life on the outside. He played the hTC position his final two seasons at Colorado, but moved inside upon being picked in the second round by the Steelers, who made a draft-day trade to get him. He offered to move back, the last time being the free-agent departure of Kevin Greene after last season.

When Lloyd went down Sept. 1, up went Brown's hand again to volunteer for outside linebacker.

Perception, however, galls the 6-foot-2, 240-pound player a bit.

"Everyone viewed Carnell's move as such a sacrifice," Brown said of teammate Lake's switch last season from safety to cornerback. "They view mine as a treat, something I've been begging for.

"To a certain extent, yes, I asked for this. I wanted to make the move, but it is tough to make it during the season like this. I would prefer to make it in the off-season.

"But I'm happy with my progress."

He has made the change so well, the Steelers' string of Pro Bowl outside linebackers may reach six consecutive seasons after all (even if the previous five were all named Lloyd).

This also would be the second consecutive year the Steelers put a reshuffled player in the Pro Bowl. Last year, the aforementioned safety Lake made it at cornerback.

Brown might not mind staying at this outside position.

"I think I could. I don't know, it's tough to say," he said. "There are parts of being an inside linebacker that I really enjoy. There are some things about outside linebacker I enjoy. And, by the same token, there are things at inside linebacker I don't ever want to do again. I'm definitely happy outside."

Cincinnati's Jeff Blake probably would rather see Brown on the inside; the outsider nailed him for 4 1/2 sacks Oct. 13. Jacksonville's Mark Brunell, too; Brown sacked him three times two weeks ago.

But it isn't just that. Brown had seven tackles on a Monday night against Buffalo. And he had a team-high 10 on a Monday night against Kansas City.

Brown becomes a free agent at season's end. His performance at outside linebacker, and on national television, may improve his stock.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," Brown said. "Too many options. Too many variables."

And too many quarterbacks this season left to chase.

NOTES: Pro Bowl receiver Yancey Thigpen will miss Sunday's game because of a ligament injury to his left foot. Guard Brenden Stai will play his first game after missing six weeks because of elbow surgery. Cowher, on ex-Steelers Bam Morris and Eric Green: "I hold no grudges and have very fond memories of those two players and the success we had while they were here." Cowher, on the Ravens: "But they're the Browns. Our guys know history. They recognize in past history this is the same team. Instead of getting on a bus and heading north, we're getting on a plane and heading east."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Steelers by 6

Last meeting: Steelers beat Ravens, 31-17, on Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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