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12-31-2010, 07:59 PM
Steelers-Browns matchup of the day: Thursday
Mike Wilkening
Senior editor

Posted Dec. 30, 2010 @ 9:40 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Steelers-Browns game.

Steelers WRs Mike Wallace and Hines Ward vs. Browns CBs Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown

Wallace is one of the game's premier deep threats, as the Browns were reminded of in the first meeting. He scored the Steelers' first touchdown on a 29-yard pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger, who beat a Browns blitz (and took a hit from OLB Matt Roth) and hit Wallace with a strike. Later, Wallace set up the Steelers' second TD with a 50-yard catch when he ran by rookie S T.J. Ward. If Roethlisberger would have hit Wallace in stride, he might have scored a 96-yard touchdown.

Wallace is also dangerous on shorter routes, as he showed last week vs. Carolina, when he took a quick-hitting pass from Roethlisberger and sprinted away for a 43-yard TD. If Wallace gets a step on his opposition, good luck catching him.

Haden, who's tied for the AFC lead in interceptions with six, matches up best with Wallace. Haden has very good athleticism and ball skills. This could be a premier individual matchup in AFC North play for years to come.

Ward, who caught five passes for 54 yards in the first meeting with Cleveland, beat yet another Browns blitz when he caught a short pass over the middle, broke one tackle attempt, bounced off another and scored a TD. The tough, physical Brown matches up better with Ward than Wallace.

Another Steelers wideout to watch is rookie Emmanuel Sanders, who has become a bigger part of the offense in the second half of the season. He has good quickness.

Pressuring Roethlisberger a must for Browns
Posted Dec. 29, 2010 @ 1:58 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Each Wednesday, we'll highlight a Browns player, coach, executive, personnel group or other area of the team that is most under scrutiny. This week, we take a closer look at the Browns' pass rush.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked three times or more in 8-of-11 starts this season. Guess who's the only team not to sack him? Interestingly enough, it's the Browns, who sacked him eight times eight times! in a single game in 2009.

In the first meeting with Cleveland, in Week Six, Roethlisberger making his first start of the season threw for 257 yards and three TD in a 28-10 Pittsburgh victory. It marked just the 11th time in 97 career starts that Roethlisberger wasn't sacked, and he is 11-0 in those starts.

Overall, Roethlisberger has been sacked at least once 29 of his last 31 regular-season starts dating back to 2008. The only games in which he wasn't sacked were in the first game vs. Cleveland in Week Six and the '08 regular-season finale vs. Cleveland, when Roethlisberger suffered a concussion and didn't finish the game.

When the Browns took down Roethlisberger eight times in their memorable 13-6 upset of Pittsburgh last December, they pressured Roethlisberger multiple ways, both with the blitz and conventional pass rushes. With the Steelers' pass protection not the team's strong suit, the need to pressure Roethlisberger is rather apparent and the Browns have little to lose. Let's see how creative Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan gets on Sunday.

Steelers-Browns matchup of the day: Wednesday
Posted Dec. 29, 2010 @ 11:21 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Steelers-Browns game.

The Steelers' kickoff coverage vs. Browns RS Joshua Cribbs

Three of Cribbs' NFL-record eight kickoff returns for touchdowns have come against the Steelers, including one a season ago, when kickoff coverage was a major weakness for Pittsburgh (four TDs allowed).

The Steelers have been better covering kicks this season, but they allowed a 97-yard TD to Jets KR Brad Smith in Week 15 in a 22-17 loss, and given their past issues stopping Cribbs, their coverage and kickoff strategy bear watching Sunday. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Steelers simply didn't mess with kicking deep to Cribbs and attempted shorter, higher-trajectory kicks designed to be caught by a Browns blocker, not their returning star.

Cribbs returned one kickoff for 26 yards in the first meeting between the teams in Week Six before suffering a concussion that knocked him out of the game. Though he has been bothered by four injured toes since Week 10, Cribbs has missed just one game because of the injury and played well in Week 16, notching a 37-yard kickoff return and 17-yard punt return.

Steelers-Browns matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Dec. 28, 2010 @ 11:46 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Steelers-Browns game.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. the Browns' run defense

The Browns held Mendenhall relatively in check in the first meeting between the teams in Week Six, limiting him to 84 yards on 27 carries in Pittsburgh's 28-10 win. However, he did break loose for a 25-yard run in the second quarter after it appeared he would be stopped for a minimal gain on a run up the middle. While the Browns were able to impede his progress initially, they could not bring him down, and he was able to find running room to his left, bursting between ILB Eric Barton and CB Eric Wright to the left sideline, where he was finally brought down by his own teammate, TE David Johnson. In the second half, Mendenhall would score a two-yard TD off left guard to give Pittsburgh a 21-3 lead.

The 5-10, 225-pound Mendenhall has lacked running room at times this season, and he's broken the 100-yard rushing barrier only once since Week Three. However, he's one of the AFC's more talented backs, with very good speed and strength. He also deploys a spin move he's used with success. Mendenhall takes care of the ball (two fumbles in 332 touches) and has been dependable, having not missed a game this season. The third-year back from Illinois has rushed for 1,237 yards and 11 TDs on 310 carries, all career highs.

The Steelers are most likely to run off the right side and have done so with success, especially behind ORT Flozell Adams. The Browns started rookie Travis Ivey at left end in place of Brian Schaefering in Week 16; whomever the Browns start on that side must be stout vs. the Steelers' running game.

Overall, the Browns are surrendering 131.3 rushing yards per game. Opponents have attempted 475 rushes and are gaining 4.1 yards per carry vs. Cleveland.

01-01-2011, 03:20 AM
i hope harrison can get by the double-teams because we all know woodley will be stopped by a lone TE.