The Browns and Steelers do battle Sunday in Cleveland, where the Steelers have lost just twice since the Browns return to the NFL in 1999.
They will have to take on the Browns with Charlie Batch as the starter, as both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich will miss the game with injuries.
Today we take a look at the three keys, and find out what the Steelers have to do to win, and who we think will come out ahead in this AFC North Battle.
1. Be Yourself – The Steelers know that Batch isn’t the second coming of Dan Marino, so don’t pretend he is. Last week vs the Ravens, Leftwich went back to pass 43 times, while the team ran the ball just 27 times. If the Steelers have the ability to run 70 plays against the Browns, that number should be reversed if they want to keep Batch healthy. The Browns are allowing 125.3 rushing yards per game, and with the threesome of backs the Steelers have, that number should be met about halftime.
2. Limit the Mistakes on Special Teams – You had to know last week this one was coming after Jacoby Jones crushed the Steelers with a punt return for a score. While Jones is having a great year, the Browns still have a kick returner in Josh Cribbs who can make a big play on returns. His play on offense and special teams killed the Steelers three years ago in the game in Cleveland, and he always seems to be in the mix for 1-2 big plays vs the Steelers. They can’t allow that Sunday.
3. Cut Down the Weeds – Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden isn’t a very good passer on the run, and if the Steelers LB’s and blitzers can pressure him, it could mean a lot of success when he looks to throw downfield. If you watch him, his best throws always seem to come when he’s able to stand in the pocket with little to no pressure. Once that pressure comes, get him away from the pocket, and when that happens, the Steelers should be able to get at least 1-2 turnovers.
This has all the makings of an ugly game, and one that could be won with 1-2 big plays. The Steelers are desperate to get a win, and with the line hopefully protecting Batch and him only needing to make making 1-2 big throws, he should be able to squeeze out the 14 points they need to beat the Browns. The run game needs to be the key, and the Steelers D needs to not get sloppy in their packages vs Weeden. Pittsburgh 14 Cleveland 10