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fordfixer
10-18-2009, 03:05 AM
Head to Head: Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Steelers OLB James Harrison
A closer look at the game within the game
Sunday, October 18, 2009
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09291/1006390-66.stm

The Cleveland Browns have compiled a laundry list of gaffes and poor personnel decisions since returning to the National Football League in 1999, not to mention employing five head coaches in that time.

Joe Thomas, though, is not among them.

This third-year left tackle has played every snap of every game since he was drafted third overall in 2007 and has appeared in back-to-back Pro Bowls -- the first Browns rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since linebacker Chip Banks in 1982.

To be sure, he is no ordinary Joe.

"I think Joe has done an outstanding job for such a young player," first-year Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "I think he'll keep getting better. He's got a great approach to it. He was voted captain this year, which is a good indication of what his peers think of him. I've been really happy with him, and he's got his work cut out for him this week."

Indeed, Thomas has a big task today against the Steelers: Control outside linebacker James Harrison, who has five of his team-high six sacks and two forced fumbles in the past two games.

Harrison, though, has only a half-sack in his previous seven games against the Browns and just 1 1/2 sacks in nine career games against them. That doesn't count the body-slam "sack" he had on a drunken Browns fan who ran onto the field in a 2005 game.

"He has good feet and good hands, and he can still stand up to a bull-rush," Harrison said. "He's got the complement of everything. If you're trying to get to the quarterback, he's not a guy you're going to beat that often. He's one of the better tackles in our division, if not among the best in the league."

Harrison has 30 1/2 sacks in 36 games since becoming a full-time starter before the 2008 season. In that time, he has made two Pro Bowls and been selected the NFL's defensive player of the year.

But, for a player who was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, played at Kent State and grew up loving the Browns and quarterback Bernie Kosar, Harrison has never put together a monster statistical game against his childhood team.

Thomas might be one of the reasons.

"He's one of those guys who's going to compete all the way to the fourth quarter," said left outside LaMarr Woodley, who played against Thomas (Wisconsin) when he was at Michigan. "You have a lot of guys who can't play four quarters of football. But Joe Thomas is the type who will play from the start of the whistle to the end of whistle. That's the kind of guy he is.

"Sometimes when a guy beats you so bad you just fold a little bit. Joe Thomas isn't one of those guys. If you lose, he's going to come back and beat you up. If you win, he's going to come back and beat you up. You always get his best punch."

He will need it against Harrison.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09291/10 ... z0UGinwJId (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09291/1006390-66.stm#ixzz0UGinwJId)