Steelers' bark as big as bite
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This might come as a surprise to you, but the Cleveland football fans weren't exactly friendly to their visitors from Pittsburgh Sunday night. "We saw a lot of middle fingers and heard a lot of f-bombs," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said.
Pittsburgh fans would never be so obnoxious.
Of course they wouldn't.
But I digress ...
This was before the game, before the Steelers won, 10-6, with a performance that, though hardly dominant, was good enough to give them an early two-game lead over the Browns in the AFC North Division. Most of the Steelers ignored the taunts from Cleveland's great unwashed and went about their warm-ups at the end of the stadium near the infamous Dawg Pound. Not Foote and linebacker James Farrior. They moseyed over and gave the business right back to the, for lack of a better word, dawgs.
"We told 'em it was a puppy pound, not a dawg pound," Farrior said.
That didn't hurt nearly as much as this:
"I told 'em to cheer for us, not a losing team," Farrior said.
"They were egging us on, telling us to come into the stands. Like they were going to do something to us," Foote said, rolling his eyes.
The abuse continued during the game. Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward especially was targeted after he dropped what should have been a touchdown pass in the second quarter. "They were just killing me after that," he said. "They were saying a lot of mean stuff about me and about my mama. I mean, c'mon guys, I'm here to play football. Leave my mama out of it."
Wouldn't you know Ward caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger on the play after the drop? Now, it was his turn to have some fun. He scratched like a dog in the end zone grass, right in front of the very same dawgs. "Just marking my spot," he said, grinning. "That silenced 'em."
Ward, Farrior, Foote and the rest got the last laugh. "We didn't have to say anything walking off the field. The scoreboard said it all," Foote said. It was the Steelers' 10th consecutive victory against the Browns and their 16th in the past 17 games in the series. Foote, in his seventh NFL season, has never lost at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"Never. Not there or in Cincinnati," he said.
"It's like the big brother beating up on the little brother all the time. The little brother can't help but get discouraged.
"They know it's our division."
Farrior enjoyed this latest victory just as much, but it's going to cost him a bundle. Late in the third quarter, during a timeout when the Steelers' medical staff tended to injured safety Ryan Clark on the field, Farrior took offense at a pocket of fans cheering Clark's injury. One made an obscene gesture to him.
You might guess what happened next.
"I gave it right back to him," Farrior said.
Referee Tony Corrente announced the penalty on Farrior as "taunting."
That sounds just a bit more dignified than "throwing the bird."
Still, it gave the Browns a first down and led to their first field goal.
"It was stupid," Farrior said. "I never should have done it or been involved in that situation. I know better than that. It could have cost us the game."
Farrior's fine from the NFL probably will be significant. Commissioner Roger Goodell is never happy when one of the players flips off a paying customer, no matter how rude and obnoxious that paying customer might be.
"I'll take my lumps, pay my fine and move on," Farrior said.
The man wasn't kidding about taking his lumps.
Hearing from the league is one thing. Hearing from coach Mike Tomlin is another.
I'm sure the coach appreciates that Farrior rushed to a teammate's defense, but he can't possibly like his players taking undisciplined, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in close games any more than Goodell likes the players giving the middle finger to the fans,
"I'll be trying to avoid him this week," Farrior said of Tomlin.
Good luck with that.
Farrior thought he heard an earful from the barking dawgs?
He hasn't heard anything yet.
First Published September 16, 2008 12:00 am