Head to head: Browns RB Trent Richardson vs. Steelers NT Casey Hampton

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Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson knows all about heated rivalries. He lived through the greatest in college sports, a rivalry that is more about a birth choice than school pride.

Auburn versus Alabama. Roll Tide or War Eagle.

"It's huge," said Richardson, the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft who played at Alabama. "I really can't explain it to you unless you go down to an Auburn-Alabama game and just see how the fans react to each other and see how big the rivalry is."

Richardson will experience another rivalry for the first time today when the Steelers play the Browns in Cleveland. But, no matter the history and the dislike one town seems to have for the other, he knows it's "not even close" to what he experienced in college.

And Richardson will be a focal point of the rivalry because the Browns run their offense through their 5-foot-9, 230-pound rookie. He leads the team in rushing (670) and receiving (37 catches) and has averaged 107 yards rushing the past three games.

"I know that this town hates the Steelers," Richardson said. "For me, as I see it, it's going to be just like the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. From what I hear, if you beat the Steelers, everything just sticks out about it. The whole season is forgotten. You could be a championship team if you beat the Steelers, from what I hear."

There are aspects of the season the Browns would like to forget, among them losing three games by four points or fewer or blowing double-digit leads to the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

But they are hoping what they have seen from Richardson, along with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and rookie receiver Josh Gordon, will provide memorable moments for the future.

"Sometimes it is frustrating and you get upset," Richardson said. "But you have to learn in this division and this league that you can't win every game. ... As long as you gave your all, people know that you did your job."

Richardson is rounding into form after missing all of the preseason because of arthroscopic knee surgery. He had 109 yards rushing on 19 carries in the second game against the Cincinnati Bengals but developed a rib cartilage injury that limited his playing time and effectiveness the next two games.

In his past three games, Richardson had 100-yard efforts against the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens and 95 yards rushing against the Cowboys. He had 34 touches in Dallas -- 28 rushes, six catches -- and appeared to run out of gas in the second half.

The Steelers have allowed two 100-yard rushers this season but last week against the Ravens, they held Ray Rice to 40 yards on 20 carries. Richardson has the same small, powerful build as Rice.

"He carries the weight on both sides," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac.


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