Pittsburgh continued its rivalry with the Browns (2-8) franchise for much of the past decade, except it was with the old team, the team that moved to Baltimore. Unfortunately, there just isn't much excitement behind a one-sided rivalry.
Don't tell that to Browns fans.
Still, it's true. Pittsburgh has won an extremely lopsided 16 out of the last 17 games in the series.
Until Cleveland can start to make these games interesting and actually win a couple in the series, especially a meaningful game or two like the two remaining contests this season, the rivalry will continue to be underwhelming at best.
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
When: Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Betting Line: Cleveland (+3), according to Covers
Pittsburgh Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/20/2012)
|WR Jerricho Cotchery||Ribs|
|QB Byron Leftwich|
|WR Antonio Brown|
|CB Curtis Brown|
|S Ryan Clark|
|DE Brett Keisel|
|RB Rashard Mendenhall|
|S Troy Polamalu|
|RB Isaac Redman|
|QB Ben Roethlisberger|
|T Max Starks|
|LB Stevenson Sylvester|
|CB Ike Taylor|
Cleveland Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/20/2012)
|TE Jordan Cameron||Groin|
|WR Josh Cooper||Illness|
|WR Joshua Cribbs||Wrist|
|CB Joe Haden||Oblique|
|LB D'Qwell Jackson||Calf|
|WR Mohamed Massaquoi||Hamstring|
|CB Dimitri Patterson||Ankle|
|RB Trent Richardson||Chest, rib, finger|
|DT Ahtyba Rubin||Calf|
|DE Frostee Rucker||Shoulder, illness|
|CB Buster Skrine||Ankle|
|DT Phil Taylor||Chest, ankle, illness|
|S Ray Ventrone||Hand, calf|
|S T.J. Ward||Hand|
|QB Brandon Weeden||Groin, thigh|
|S Usama Young||Knee|
What's At Stake?
The Pittsburgh Steelers need a win over the Cleveland Browns in order to regain momentum for a run at the AFC North Division crown. Divisional wins are huge, especially in a competitive group. While the division may slowly be slipping away from them, nothing is ever certain in the NFL until it comes to pass.
For the Browns, another loss against the Steelers, especially without Ben Roethlisberger, could be a boiling point for a frustrated fanbase. Losing is one thing, but this team has been competitive. It's discouraging that they're not playing meaningful football games down the stretch and just playing solely for pride at this point.
Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace is a Cleveland Browns killer. His blazing speed has been too much for the Browns secondary to account for, and this week they may be without Joe Haden again. Even with Haden, Wallace has managed to put up big games against Cleveland.
Think Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders. He caught eight passes for 123 yards and scored once. Even with Charlie Batch behind the helm, Wallace has the speed to take a slant route the distance on any given play. Cleveland's secondary has struggled with pursuit and tackling in space, so don't be surprised if Wallace has the best game of his season, even with Roethlisberger on the sidelines.
Cleveland RB Trent Richardson
Browns running back Trent Richardson hasn't scored a touchdown in five weeks. He'll be a focal point of the team's offense again this week, though, as they take on a pretty gritty Steelers team. His performance in both the running and passing games will be integral in the outcome of the game.
If Cleveland cant shut down third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, they may be able to control the pace of the game by pounding the ball with Richardson. He'll get the most touches of anyone on the field and should produce as a result. Look for him to get back in the end zone on a pass play this week.
What They Are Saying
Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland lists Charlie Batch, Mike Wallace and James Harrison as the players to watch for the Steelers.
He also pointed out that Batch is 5-2 in his career as a spot starter and that he may actually be a better fit for Todd Haley's offense than Byron Leftwich is.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden knows the importance of this week's game against the Steelers (via Twitter):
Beat the steelers = browns fans happy! Lets make it happen!!!— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) November 20, 2012
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith thinks the Steelers' playoff chances are still good because of their schedule as well as the lacking competition from around the rest of the conference.
"The more I read, the more worried I am about them," Skip Bayless said about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Key Matchup: Browns pass rush against third-string QB Charlie Batch
Cleveland's currently ranked eighth in the NFL in sacks with 27 so far this season. They've improved drastically in that regard, and much of it has to do with aggressive schemes and stunts from defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.
Batch hasn't started a game this season and hasn't played since the beginning of last season. He's a veteran and will be able to weather the storm but will not be as sharp and quick to evade the pressure of the Browns' front. Roethlisberger can escape and make plays, but they will not have that element with Batch in there.
Because of that, expect Jauron to dial up the pressure and keep Batch on the run for much of the game.
Cleveland's defense is suspect at times but should be able to hone in on the game plan of the Steelers with Charlie Batch behind center. Look for the Browns to move T.J. Ward close to the line to help shut down Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall to force Batch to beat them.
On the opposite side of the ball, Cleveland's rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is lucky that Troy Polamalu will not be in the secondary watching his every move. Weeden still telegraphs his throws at times, and that combination would be deadly for the first-year QB.
Still, the Browns have a decent, competitive team that's been in every matchup this year. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the defense will be able to keep Pittsburgh out of the end zone and come away with a narrow home victory.
Browns 14, Steelers 9