Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers At Cleveland Browns
- QuarterbackByron Leftwich is under center in place of Ben Roethlisberger (ribs, shoulder) and he will remain the Steelers’ starter against the Browns. Leftwich led the Steelers to a touchdown against the archrival Ravens in the first drive of the game, but he did little after that. Leftwich has a long, awkward delivery and he is a target for opposing pass rushers.Brandon Weeden takes a lot of physical abuse, but he has played with courage. He played fairly well in the Browns’ Week 11 23-20 overtime loss to the Cowboys, throwing two TD passes. Weeden did not throw an interception in that game and he is improving each week.
- OffenseWith the injury to Roethlisberger, the Steelers will be even more dependent on their ground game. That’s a good thing because Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer are both strong runners who will initiate contact and run in a north-south style. Heath Miller is an effective tight end while speedy Mike Wallace can be a difference maker if Leftwich can get him the ball.The Browns want to establish Trent Richardson, but the rookie running back will almost certainly have issues with the Steelers defense. Richardson gained 95 yards against the Cowboys and he can be very difficult to tackle because he combines great moves with surprising power. Josh Gordon can go downfield and make long plays while Ben Watson is a solid short-area target.
- DefenseDespite playing without safety Troy Polamalu for much of the season, the Steelers have been impressive on defense. No surprise there. We can talk about technique and great coaching and that would be accurate, but the Steelers are a bunch of vicious hitters who can intimidate opponents. James Harrison, Larry Foote and Lamarr Woodley are dominant players who have an impact each week.The Browns don’t win many games, but don’t blame the defense. They are a well-positioned and hard-hitting group that allows the Browns to compete despite a substandard offense. Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has a team-leading 10 tackle and he also has 3.0 sacks. Cornerback Buster Skrine has 66 tackles and 9 passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Steelers had been solid on special teams, but they gave up a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown to Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones in Week 11 and that was crucial in their loss to the Ravens. Shaun Suisham has had a remarkable year, making 21-of-22 field goal attempts.If the Browns can turn this into a four-quarter game that comes down to a late field goal, Phil Dawson gives them an advantage. So do their outstanding special teams. Josh Cribbs is one of the most dangerous return men in the league and he can erupt for a touchdown at any time.
The Browns are going to clean house under new ownership at the end of the season, but considering that rather significant piece of news, the team has played hard and given a great effort. They just don’t have enough talented players to beat a good team like the Steelers unless they have a significant edge in the turnover battle.