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Rivalry special for Browns

Posted Nov 22, 2013

The Cleveland Browns are preparing for a “big week” as they welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.

Steelers Week is different.

Whether it is an individual matchup, teams that have a long history or a pair of cities that are similar in many ways except for the teams they support, rivalries are the lifeblood of athletics, and the Cleveland Browns have spent the week preparing to host their chief rival within the AFC North Division, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s game, the Browns have brought an increased focus to their preparation.

“I think guys are confident,” defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “We had a good practice yesterday. This is an important week. I’m sure they felt the vibe from the leaders on this team and the coaching staff that this is a big one. It’s one of our big rivalry games and we’re trying to make sure all of these guys understand that.”

Fourth-year defensive back Joe Haden added, “It’s a big week. Definitely being here now for four years, everybody’s going to let you know. I’m trying to do a good job of letting the rookies know to look around and just figure out the atmosphere is going to change a little bit when you play Pittsburgh.”

According to both Jackson and Haden, it takes playing in the game to really understand what a victory means to the respective organizations and its loyal fan base.

“You could feel the intensity level rise a little bit,” Jackson recalled. “That fourth and fifth year, I knew it. Coaches and players who have been around this rivalry, they mean business, and from that point on, I usually have my best games against them. You know you’ve got to bring your lunch pail; you’ve got to bring your ‘big boy pants.’ It’s going to be a dog fight. There’s no doubt.”

Haden added, “You just can’t come into it and be ready for it. You won’t be ready for it this week. You’ve got to experience it, and by the next time we play them, everybody will know for sure.”

While there will be a capacity crowd of more than 71,000 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium, veteran quarterback Jason Campbell will be focused solely on handling the task at hand, engineering the offense and leading the team to victory.

“How you play a rivalry game, from a player’s standpoint, the main thing is you can’t get caught up in all of the festivities and everything that goes around the game,” Campbell said. “I just think you have to stay mentally prepared on what you have to do.

“Sometimes, you can get too amped or sometimes, you can just lose your focus because you’re so caught up into everything else as it being a huge game, a huge rivalry game. It’s a big game, and we all know that, but at the same time, we have to approach it as each man, ‘Do your own job.’”

Although he will be focused on leading the offense, Campbell did say that he and the team did not need to hear much about the rivalry from coach Rob Chudzinski, who grew up a Browns fan in Toledo.

The Browns fans and Campbell’s teammates have reminded him how important a game it is to the city.

“Even in my short time of being here, you understand what this game means to the city, what it means to the fan base and what it means to part of our season,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty sure the Steelers are looking at it the same way.

“We’re both teams that are 4-6. It’s going to be one of those AFC North battle games. It’s going to be cold, so we’re going to have to stay detailed, stay focused on what we have to do and not get so caught up into everything that’s going around the game.”