Steelers Notebook: Ravens, Bengals top division according to Cowher

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Now that he's no longer coach of the Steelers, Bill Cowher apparently feels free to play the what-if game.

He predicts the Steelers will finish third in the AFC North behind Baltimore and Cincinnati.

"Those two teams, I think they're still the top two," Cowher said Tuesday on the NFL Network. "And still I think Pittsburgh, they've got a chance with their schedule to get off to a good start, they've got a chance to be a team to be contended with."

Clear superiority

It has been an uphill battle 57 years in the making but with a victory Sunday in Cleveland, the Steelers can finally claim superiority over the Browns.

The series that began in 1950 is tied, 55-55, counting two playoff games, both Steelers victories. It took 13 victories in the past 14 games for the Steelers to pull even after they lost eight in a row to open the series and 16 of the first 18 meetings between the two longtime rivals.

After spending the past three seasons in Cleveland, defensive end Nick Eason signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent this year. He tried to explain the importance of this game from the Browns' perspective.

"In Cleveland, being that they lost for many years now and haven't gotten a win against the Steelers, it's probably the Super Bowl, I want to say to be up front with you. Playing the Steelers is a Super Bowl game, pretty much. That comes with the tradition behind the game and with the fans as well. So it's a big game."

Number changes

Rookie RB Gary Russell changed his number to 33 from the 41 he wore in training camp. LB Marquis Cooper changed to 54, Rian Wallace's former number, from his camp number of 48.

Source of inspiration

Before he coached in the NFL, Mike Tomlin spent a summer as a coaching intern with the Cleveland Browns under then-defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, now Cleveland's head coach. At the time, Tomlin was secondary coach at the University of Cincinnati.

"He really provided the first window to me into this league," Tomlin said. "He was very good to me. He's a very bright, intelligent coach, specifically defensively. I'm in awe of the way he went about his job. It made me want to be part of this league."

Tomlin landed his first job the following season as secondary coach in Tampa Bay.

"The thing that impressed me then was that we would give him things to do and he would be very thorough and complete in getting the task assigned done," Crennel said. "He turned in reports to us and the reports were right on. The things that I was seeing, he had them in his reports and he was seeing the same things. I knew at that time he was a good coach and he was going to be a good football coach."

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