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fordfixer
09-12-2008, 12:35 AM
Steelers' Hampton says Browns' Rogers best at position
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, September 12, 2008

Steelers' Hampton says Browns' Rogers best at position

Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton is considered one of the best in the business.

But when it comes to taking on multiple blockers and not ceding an inch or caving in offensive lines, Hampton defers to at least one player.

And that is his close friend and fellow buffet buster Shaun Rogers.

"When he wants to play and puts his mind to it, I think he's the best in the league," said Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. "You've just got to grab him and hold on."

Unfortunately for new Steelers center Justin Hartwig, the NFL is not likely to make holding legal before Sunday night. And if Hartwig doesn't hold his own against the 6-foot-4, 350-pound Rogers, the Browns could snap a nine-game losing streak to the Steelers, one that dates to 2003.

The Hartwig-Rogers matchup will be one of the key ones Sunday night in the 8:15 game at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Steelers averaged more then 180 rushing yards in two victories over the Browns last season. To rectify that - and a porous run defense that ranked 27th in the NFL last season - the Browns traded for Rogers and defensive end Corey Williams.

Rogers made a Pro Bowl during the five seasons he spent with the Lions but also got tagged with the label of underachiever because he didn't always play at full speed.

"A lot of times in Detroit, he'll tell you man, he got frustrated, losing all the time and stuff like that," said Hampton, who lives near Rogers in Texas during the offseason. "I think he shut it down a couple of times. But early in the season, he's always ready to play, and if they keep winning, he'll continue."

Hampton knows the kind of havoc Rogers can wreak since they played on the same defensive line at the University of Texas.

If trying to neutralize Rogers and Hampton seemed unfair to opposing offensive lines, consider this: the classmates played for two seasons with Cory Redding, who plays for the Lions.

Hartwig played against that dominant line in college, and one of the former Kansas standout's most vivid memories made him break out in laughter earlier this week.

"Our left guard, whose is one of my best friends, got flat-backed a few times by Rogers, and he still remembers that to this day," said Hartwig, who played right tackle at Kansas. "He'll probably call me and say, 'I can't believe you're going against that guy.' "

The 6-4, 312-pound Hartwig anticipates getting some help from the Steelers guards with Rogers. But, as Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Thursday, "We can't double team a guy all night. We're going to be short somewhere else."

Nothing could have better prepared Hartwig for Sunday than going against Hampton this week at practice.

The eighth-year veteran has proven to be an immovable force in the Steelers' 3-4 defense.

While he doesn't make many tackles, he showed how disruptive he can be in the Steelers' 38-17 win over the Texans. He sabotaged a Houston running play by pushing Texans center Chris Myers into the backfield almost immediately after the ball had snapped.

Rogers has the ability to do the same thing - when he is motivated.

"Sunday night, national television, big game, we're anticipating his best effort," Arians said. "Shaun's a great player when he cranks it up, and he's a lot to handle."

Hartwig will almost certainly find that out Sunday.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.