Browns’ Steinbach a harbinger of better days and winning ways?

Steve Doerschuk

What is it about blocking machine Eric Steinbach and Ohio’s NFL teams?

The left guard joined the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 after they went 19-61 the previous five years. With him starting on the offensive line, they went 35-29.

Now he’s preparing to face the Bengals as a Brown. His new team was 19-45 the previous four years. He landed a $49.5 million contract because the Browns think he can be part of a turnaround here, too.

The parallel extends a bit further.

Steinbach’s first game with the Bengals was a blowout home-opener loss to Denver. Same old Bengals, everyone said -- they were coming off a 2-14 year.

The Bengals got off to a 1-4 start, winning only at Cleveland.

“That’s what we were at the bye week,” Steinbach said. “I just remember the coaches going over every single play we ran to that point.”

They won seven of nine after the bye to get in contention. They lost to the Rams and the Browns at the end.

Steinbach’s first game with the Browns was a blowout home-opener loss to Pittsburgh. Same old Browns, it seems.

Not to Steinbach.

“I wouldn’t have come here unless I saw this team going on the rise,” he said. “This team winning ... it’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of time.”

The parallel keeps going.

In Steinbach’s first year in Cincinnati, the Bengals spent a first-round pick on a quarterback, Carson Palmer.

He checked into Cleveland a month before the Browns manipulated their way into Round 1 to draft Brady Quinn.

It’s not an exact comparison. In Cincinnati, Palmer sat his entire rookie year behind veteran Jon Kitna. Quinn could play two games into his rookie year if new starter Derek Anderson struggles against the Bengals.

Steinbach blocked for Charlie Frye in the 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh. Frye was traded to Seattle two days later.

“We had a good practice yesterday,” Steinbach said. “Obviously nothing against Charlie, but we really did feel that we went out and had some good work.

“That’s the decision that they made. We have to keep truckin’.”

Steinbach joined the Bengals a year after they spent a No. 10 overall pick on left tackle Levi Jones. He joins the Browns just as they’re breaking in No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas at that position.

Jones is having a nice career. Steinbach said Thomas is off to a promising start.

Steinbach missed the preseason with a sprained knee, leaving him “a little rusty,” he said, last week.

He’s energized for his first Browns-Bengals game on the other side.

Defensive lineman Shaun Smith, another Bengal-turned-Brown, walked by and interrupted Steinbach’s interview.

“Tell ‘em what you really think,” Smith said.

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com.

RIVER DAYS

The Bengals were 6-2 against the Browns during Eric Steinbach’s career in Cincinnati. Notable games included:

2003. The Browns eliminated the Bengals from playoff contention in a season finale, Tim Couch’s last game as a Brown.

2004. The Bengals won a 58-48 shootout at Paul Brown Stadium, prompting Butch Davis to resign with five games left in the season.

2006. Steinbach moved to left tackle in place of injured Levi Jones. Carson Palmer passed for 352 yards in a 34-17 Bengal win.