Two AFC North teams will do battle by the Lakefront Sunday at 1pm, as the Steelers and Browns go at it for the first time in the 2012 season.
The Steelers still have plenty to play for, as even with a loss last Sunday night vs the Ravens they still have the inside track in the AFC at a wild card birth.
They will have to take on the Browns Sunday with Charlie Batch as the starter, as both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich will miss the game with injuries.
The 37-year-old Batch is 5-2 while starting in place of Roethlisberger over the last 10 seasons. He went 15 for 22 for 208 yards in a 27-0 win over St. Louis in his last start December 24th vs the Rams.
Batch was 13 of 19 for 150 yards and ran for a score in his only previous start versus Cleveland, a 34-21 Pittsburgh home win November 13th, 2005.
“Charlie’s a great quarterback, and he’s also been in the league for some time now,” Pittsburgh cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “He knows the offense upside down (inside out), so if we have to rely on Charlie, we know he could get in there and win games.”
The Steelers will lean on their running game for the most part, with Jonathan Dwyer, Issac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall all having shots to carry the ball vs the Browns.
The Browns defense ranks 24th with 125.3 rushing allowed yards per game, meaning the Steelers should be able to take pressure off Batch with the ground game.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin hopes his team’s #1 ranked defense will take some of the pressure of the offense, which has scored one TD since Roethlisberger was injured in third quarter of a 16-13 win over Kansas City on November 12th.
The Steelers are first in the NFL with 259.1 yards allowed and fifth at 19.0 points given up per contest.
Pittsburgh has won 22 of 24 against the Browns and outscored them 96-31 during a four-game winning streak in the series, with Cleveland managing two touchdowns in those contests. The Steelers have taken two straight and 13 of 15 in Cleveland.
The Browns (2-8) found the end zone twice last Sunday but blew a 13-point halftime lead en route to a 23-20 overtime loss at Dallas. Since 2010, Cleveland has lost an NFL-leading 18 games by seven or fewer points, including five this season.
“We just have to find a way to finish,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We have a whole locker room full of winners. This whole organization is full of winners. We just have to put it all together and do it.”
Brandon Weeden threw a pair of TD passes to Ben Watson and was not intercepted while Trent Richardson just missed his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 95. However, the Browns committed two penalties for 50 yards on Dallas’ tying drive in the fourth quarter.
Then in OT the team couldn’t generate much offense, before the Cowboys eventually marched down the field for a field goal to win the game 23-20.
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 veteran Batch making 1-2 throws, he should be able to squeeze out the 14 points they need to beat the Browns.
Pittsburgh 14 Cleveland 10