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Former Steeler mates jelling



Published: Mon, September 10, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Chad Brown and Levon Kirkland are teaming with Anthony Simmons to make a formidable trio.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown says he had mixed feelings when he learned that former teammate Levon Kirkland was joining the team for the 2001 season.

"You would hope that at some point the Steelers would want somebody to retire as a Steeler," said Brown.

"Not that the Rooneys or Coach [Bill] Cowher are bad people, but they say they are small-market city and they can't pay ... whatever," said Brown of the Steelers.

"I would still love [center] Dermontii Dawson retire [as a Steeler] and Levon Kirkland, one of the greatest linebackers in Steelers history [remain]."

"When I saw [Kirkland] at minicamp, I told him how happy I was to see him, but how sad I was for him to go through that," Brown said.

Together: Brown and Kirkland were two of the Steelers' four starting linebackers in Super Bowl XXX in January 1996.

One year later, Brown left over a contract dispute.

Last February, Kirkland, the captain of the Steelers defense for several years and the last member of the Super Bowl team's starting defense, was unceremoniously released.

"I wasn't even forewarned," Kirkland said. "It kind of leaked out. Basically, reporters told me."

Kirkland admitted that after a nine-year career in Pittsburgh, that had the Steelers asked him "to come back for lower pay, I probably would have."

He wasn't out of work long as Seattle made an immediate offer.

"Seattle called me right away," Kirkland said. "To be chosen by Coach [Mike] Holmgren is a big deal."

In the middle: Kirkland, who played inside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme, is the Seahawks middle linebacker, surrounded by Brown and Anthony Simmons.

The trio led Seattle in tackling with almost half of the team's 45 tackles Sunday, with Simmons recording nine, Brown eight (including two sacks) and Kirkland five.

"We seem to gel," Kirkland said of Brown and Simmons. "It's not like we hang out with each other or anything, but we have a mutual respect for each other. We seem to complement each other."

Brown said being reunited with Kirkland has made him "as comfortable as I have been as a Seahawk. It's not that we're best friends, but I'm sure now we'll spend more time together.

"On the field, it just clicks. We came into the league at a similar time and we learned the game from the same coaches. The same veterans taught us how to be professionals."

Draft: Kirkland, 32, was drafted in the second round of the 1992 draft after playing for Clemson. In 1993, Brown, 31, also was a second-round draft choice after attending Colorado.

In his four years in Seattle, Browns has been the Seahawks' leading tackler with 465.

Kirkland said the switch means "I'm having fun again and that's the main thing. This is a blessing."

Kirkland was one of four free agents the Seahawks signed for their defense (linemen Chad Eaton and John Randle, and safety Marcus Robertson are the others).

Factors: Of the quartet, Holmgren said, "I love them. They make such a difference for us.

"They are on the sidelines, they are alive and at halftime they are very positive guys. It was something that we needed."

Kirkland said his only goal this fall "is to play well. When I left Pittsburgh, I knew that I could [still] play. That's all I'm trying to do."




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