BEREA — In less than a week, most of the optimism surrounding the Browns has turned into an overwhelming sense of panic.
Cleveland guard Eric Steinbach, though, is doing his best to preach patience to everyone in the organization.
“When you get a group of guys together for a couple of years and let them grow, it’s only going to make you better,” he said Thursday. “If we can set the tone for this team on the offensive line, we can build something good the same way the Bengals have.”
Steinbach knows of what he speaks, having spent his first four NFL seasons with Cincinnati before signing with the Browns in the offseason.
He will play against the Bengals for the first time Sunday when they visit Cleveland Browns Stadium for a 1 p.m. game.
“It’s going to be a good challenge for us,” the
6-foot-6, 295-pounder said. “Having two rival games is a great way to start the season, even though things didn’t work out against Pittsburgh (in a 34-7 loss).
“I’ll say hello to those guys before the game because I know a lot of them, but once it starts I’ll do all I can to help the Cleveland Browns win.”
Steinbach’s stay in Cincinnati was filled with a lot of wins, largely because coach Marvin Lewis placed a high priority on building a cohesive offensive unit.
While quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Rudi Johnson and wide receiver Chad Johnson have gotten most of the headlines, they wouldn’t be household names without a strong line blocking for them.
“No question, Carson is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’s been helped by the guys up front,” Steinbach said. “Ever since Marvin Lewis got there in 2003, he’s done a good job putting an offensive line together. When you do that, a lot of positive things happen.”
One of Lewis’ first moves upon taking over was drafting Steinbach with the 33rd overall pick. He won the starting left guard job as a rookie and held onto it until becoming an unrestricted free agent after the 2006 season.
Along the way, the versatile Steinbach also filled in at left tackle and center due to injuries, playing a huge role in the Bengals becoming one of the league’s marquee attractions.
But despite those accomplishments, Cincinnati chose to spend its dollars elsewhere when Steinbach hit the open market — leading to his seven-year contract with the Browns.
“When it comes down to it, it’s a business,” he said. “I wasn’t part of their recipe for the future, and that was fine because I was a free agent. Everything worked out for both teams.”
Fourth-year pro Stacy Andrews slid into Steinbach’s former spot with the Bengals, while Cleveland was quick to turn over the leadership of its line to the former Iowa All-American.
Steinbach is paired with left tackle (and top draftee) Joe Thomas, center Hank Fraley, right guard Seth McKinney and right tackle Kevin Shaffer on what is — on paper — the Browns’ best offensive line in more than a decade.
Cleveland did allow six sacks in its opener against the Steelers, but between many of them were directly attributed to mistakes by quarterbacks Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson.
“I thought we played pretty well overall, but had a couple of things to pick up on, and I thought Joe did good,” Steinbach said. “Really, we were pretty much where we needed to be as far as communication. It’s just a matter of getting to know what each of us can do on the field.”
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.