Hampton says massive Rogers poses big problems
9/10/2008, 4:59 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton never sits in on the offensive line's meetings but, if he did, he knows what he would say this week.

Hampton would quickly issue this warning: Two of you will be needed to shut down 350-pound defensive lineman Shaun Rogers, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns after seven seasons with Detroit.

Hampton is convinced the 6-foot-4 Rogers could be the NFL's best defensive lineman if he'd put his mind to it. His former University of Texas teammate didn't always do that in Detroit, which won only 10 games combined the last two seasons.

Despite Rogers' buildup as one of the toughest linemen in the NFL to block, he never had more than seven sacks in a season with Detroit. Rogers' conditioning and inconsistent play helped persuade the Lions to trade him.

"In Detroit, man, a lot of times he would shut it down — he'll tell you, he gets frustrated out there losing all the time," Hampton said Wednesday. "I think he shut it down a couple of times. But you look at his track record, early in the season he always comes to play and he's ready to play and if they're winning, he's going to continue."

Hampton and Rogers are offseason neighbors in Texas and, even though Hampton has made the last four Pro Bowls, he believes Rogers could be even better.

Hampton is certain Rogers will want to play Sunday night, when the Steelers (1-0) could open a two-game AFC North lead over the Browns (0-1) by winning in Cleveland for the 10th consecutive time.

"No question about it, he'll be ready to play. He can play, man, it's all about when he wants to play. When he wants to play, nobody can stop him," Hampton said. "When he gives it up and puts his mind to it, I think he's the best in the league."

The Browns gave Rogers a giant contract ($42 million over six years, with $20 million guaranteed) that was more befitting of his size than his production with Detroit, 29 sacks in seven seasons.

Rogers is athletic and, despite his size, was seen dunking at a charity basketball game last spring. In his first game with Cleveland, Rogers had no sacks but was credited with four tackles in a 28-10 loss to Dallas on Sunday.

"We talk all the time," Hampton said. "He's just happy to have the opportunity to win. He's been in Detroit all those years losing."

Steelers center Justin Hartwig will be the primary blocker against Rogers. The two opposed each other once in the NFL, in 2004, and in college when Hartwig played for Kansas, a 51-16 Texas win in 2000.

"He is a massive guy and takes up blockers," Hartwig said. "You watch film and there's several plays a game when he just shuts the play down completely all by himself. That's going to be our challenge, being able to slow things down so we can get the ball carrier past the line of scrimmage."

Without Rogers on the Browns' line, the Steelers rushed for a combined 365 yards in beating their rivals twice last season. Willie Parker ran for 109 yards in a 35-7 season-opening win at Cleveland and 105 yards as the Steelers won 31-28 in Pittsburgh.

"But it's still Cleveland, so we know they're going to play hard," Parker said.

Notes:@ Parker was chosen as the AFC offensive player of the week after rushing for 138 yards and scoring three times as the Steelers beat Houston 38-17. ... The Steelers signed WR Martin Nance to their practice squad. Nance was a college teammate of QB Ben Roethlisberger at Miami (Ohio) and was with the Vikings when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the defensive coordinator there in 2006. WR Micah Rucker was released. .. Browns WR Joshua Cribbs had a kickoff return touchdown against Pittsburgh each of the last two seasons.
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