Game 11 matchup: Steelers vs. Browns
November 23, 2013 8:46 PM
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When the Browns have the ball:
Disruptions at the two most important positions -- quarterback and running back -- are the biggest reason for a lack of production on offense. The Browns haven't scored more than 20 points in four of their past five games. The Browns are on their third starting quarterback this season and 20th since returning to the league in 1999. But Jason Campbell seems to have brought some stability to the position by throwing for 809 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions in three starts. Campbell, though, is completing just 55.7 percent of his attempts. Campbell does not have many playmakers, though. Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has four 100-yard receiving games and averages 18.8 yards per catch, is the biggest. Tight end Jordan Cameron leads the team with 56 catches and six touchdowns, but he has slowed after a fast start. Running back Willis McGahee was brought in when Trent Richardson, last year's No. 1 pick, was traded and leads the team with 275 yards rushing. But he is averaging just 2.6 yards per attempt.
When the Steelers have the ball:
The Browns have switched to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator and former Steelers assistant Ray Horton, and he has them applying more pressure with more people while still stopping the run. The Browns have 31 sacks -- tied for ninth in the NFL -- with 15 different players registering at least one sack. Rookie OLB Barkevious Mingo, their No. 1 pick, leads the team with four sacks. The Browns rank eighth against the run, fourth against the pass, in the league. The rush defense is headed by 335-pound nose tackle Phil Taylor and 330-pound defensive end Ahtyba Rubin. Former Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard has been moved to outside linebacker in the 3-4. Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson leads the team with 91 tackles. Strong safety T.J. Ward is having a Pro Bowl-type season with 77 tackles and two interceptions and combines with Tashaun Gipson to give the Browns two hard-hitting players on the back end.
Keep an eye on: P Spencer Lanning ...
One week after the Lions unsuccessfully tried a fake field goal, the Steelers special teams should be wary of Lanning, who threw an 11-yard touchdown pass on a fake field-goal attempt earlier this season against Minnesota. But Lanning also had two punts blocked last week against the Bengals, one of which was returned 24 yards for a touchdown.
The Browns have lost four of their past five games after a 3-2 start; the Steelers have won two in a row for the second time this season. ... Since returning to the league in 1999, the Browns are 5-24 against the Steelers. But they are 2-2 in the past four games in Cleveland. ... The Browns would match their victory total from last season with a victory. It would also be their third AFC North win this season, tying their most since the division was formed in 2002. ... The Steelers haven't lost consecutive games in Cleveland since the Browns won four in a row from 1990-93. ... Four of the past five games in Cleveland have been decided by seven points or fewer.
To win, the Browns must ...
1. Have Campbell be M-mmm good.
The former Redskins quarterback has to be more accurate and make plays in the passing game.
2. Flash Gordon.
He has four touchdown catches of 37 yards or longer and needs to test a defense that has allowed six pass plays of 50 yards or longer.
3. Play for Ray.
Horton is a Dick LeBeau disciple who spent seven years as a secondary coach with the Steelers (2004-10).
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Get Brown on Browns.
It will be up to cornerback Joe Haden to stop Antonio Brown, the NFL's leading receiver.
2. Have Ben be Ben.
Roethlisberger is 15-1 lifetime against the Browns and coming off his best game of the season.
3. Not suffer a Brown-out.
The Steelers are averaging 30.3 points in their past three games but have scored just 43 points in four of their past five in Cleveland.