Posted: 6:50 p.m.
Bryan Robinson is living one of life's biggest cliches on the cliche-riddled podium of Super Bowl Sunday festooned with hype.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
He faces the Steelers in the playoffs again and this time he is the starting nose tackle for the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday in Tampa instead of the starting left defensive tackle for the Bengals.
"After 12 years," he said Thursday, "to reach this point at this time is a great thrill and honor."
The Bengals loved Robinson's professionalism and versatility, but at the end of his three-year deal in '07 there was really no spot for him on the defensive line. Not after they signed right end Antwan Odom in free agency and had emerging youths Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene that could also play both tackle and end, guys that Robinson had mentored enthusiastically.
So at 34 Robinson hooked on with Arizona in April with a two-year deal as a backup behind Gabe Watson and Alan Branch.
Right team. Right spot. Watson got hurt, Branch washed out, and Robinson has been a stalwart on running downs and a calming ballast for the Arizona front in 15 starts at nose tackle.
In fact, it was Robinson who went to the coaches last month after the Vikings' Adrian Peterson rolled up 165 yards against the Cardinals and suggested their 3-4ish defense go more to a four-man line on early downs instead of a three-man front in an effort to shore up the run.
That's when Robinson moves to end and the healthy Watson joins Darnell Dockett in the middle.
"We have to do what you always have to do against Pittsburgh," Robinson said. "Stop the run and don't turn it over."
If that reminds you what John Thornton did this past season, it is. Thornton, like Robinson, a valued vet in the trenches, went to the coaches at about midseason and suggested they play rookie Pat Sims at his starting tackle spot and let him work more at end in a rotation.
It smacked of genius when the Bengals lost three ends to injury in November and they won their last three with Thornton at end. Ironic since Thornton, the last 30-year-old on the line, ended up flipping between the spots like Robinson did the year before.
If the NFL isn't a funny game, it at least always seems to be ironic.
The corridors of Bengaldom may be haunted with the populace sick and tired hearing about the last playoff game during the playoffs. But it has stuck to the players like a bad dream.
Before he sat at his table during the Cardinals media session Thursday morning in Tampa, Robinson brought up a game of give-and-take he has had with Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
"Both those guys were coaching Pittsburgh when we played them in the playoffs," said Robinson of the unmentionable game in which Carson Palmer suffered the censored injury deleted years ago. "Both of them have always told me that big Kimo (von Oelhoffen) didn't mean to do it. But, yeah, they know I think if we had Carson I think we would have won.
"I mean, c'mon, that was our destiny. We were confident then that not only would we beat the Steelers but that we could win the Super Bowl. It's the same kind of confidence we have now."
But Robinson stressed that Arizona is enjoying the underdog role and doesn't want to hear that some folks are even predicting publicly that the Cards can pull it off. This time, Robinson's Pro Bowl quarterback isn't hurt.
"No, no. We've got to go out and play," Robinson said. "We've got to approach it like we have through the playoffs."
He has told friends if he wins a Super Bowl he'll retire but on Thursday the focus was the Pittsburgh run game while he also offered, "I've got no hard feelings when it comes to the Bengals," and that he had a good conversation with head coach Marvin Lewis in the spring.
"I told him no matter what happens," he said, "I'm going to be OK."
Robinson can see the similarities between the '08 Cardinals and the '05 Bengals, particularly on a defense where Arizona has piled up a staggering plus-nine in turnover margin in the playoffs.
"That defense could take the ball away and we can score points in a hurry like that team could, but I think our receivers are different than Chad (Ocho Cinco) and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh). They've got different styles," Robinson said. "I think that team ran the ball better than this one, kind of like the way we've been running it the last month."
Before Robinson came to each franchise, he heard the whispers. The Bengals and Cardinals share one thing in the NFL gossip mill: Their tight fiscal policies supposedly trickle down to the smallest items.
But Robinson said he hasn't experienced it in either place.
"Yeah, I heard about it, but I didn't see it," Robinson said. "I came into Cincinnati after Marvin (Lewis) got there and there was a winning attitude that had been established and I didn't know what they were talking about. There wasn't anything like that. Same thing here. Whiz had already been here for a year. I guess when you win they don't mind giving you an extra pair of socks."
A win on Sunday means a lot more than socks. He's hearing it from all over. According to The Chicago Tribune, former Bears teammate Brian Urlacher texted him, "Enjoy the moment," and Thornton said Thursday, "I'm really happy for him. He is a leader and you can tell he rubbed off on their young guys. Every time I watch them play, he looks like he is coaching on the field."
Pardon the cliche.
The more things change.