Talking football with Savage

A long conversation with former Browns GM Phil Savage brought the subject back to football. This following an afternoon of Tampa Bay cheerleaders, NFL handshaking champions and stare-downs with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Savage thinks Pittsburgh will win, barring any game-changing turnovers or big plays that could turn the tide of the game quickly. Remember, Savage’s Browns have played the Steelers twice a year for the last four years.

“What characterizes their team is their great winning leadership behind guys like (Ben) Roethlisberger, (Hines) Ward and (Troy) Polamalu … Three of the toughest, most competitive players,” said Savage. “More than that, they’re clutch players. They really know what it takes to win. The rest of the team feeds off those players, in my mind.

“For them to win, they will have to control the tempo of the game. I think they have favorable matchups, especially with Casey Hampton in the interior. If Hampton can control the middle, that should free things up on the outside. I don’t think you’ll see the Steelers try to play a lot of man to man. The only way they’ll lose is by giving up big plays to Fitzgerald or on special teams. To me, that’s the way they lose this game.”

“We didn’t play Arizona this season, but we played them last year. A lot of the same players. They’ve been able to run the ball enough during the playoffs. They’ve been able to protect the passer. Warner has been fairly hot during the playoffs. The key for them is the exact opposite, in my mind. To make a big play — a long touchdown or return a punt or kickoff. The main thing for them is to protect the QB. That’s difficult to do against the Steelers.”

Off all the coaching hires during the offseason, Savage likes Jim Schwartz to the Lions, Rex Ryan to the Jets, Steve Spagnuolo to the Rams and Josh McDaniels to the Broncos the most.

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