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|10-13-2010, 09:13 PM||#1|
A Son of Martha
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Mesa, Arizona
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Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
TIME: 01:00 P.M. EST
VENUE: Heinz Field
After four weeks of uncertainty filling out their depth chart at quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers have no qualms about discussing who they'll have under center this week.
The Cleveland Browns wish they could say the same.
Ben Roethlisberger returns from his four-game suspension Sunday at Heinz Field, rejoining a Steelers team held together in his absence by its defense - which could get plenty of chances to make plays as the Browns may be forced to give rookie Colt McCoy his first start.
Pittsburgh (3-1) got used to Roethlisberger's off-the-field activities dominating offseason headlines after his 2006 motorcycle accident and a 2009 civil suit that alleged he sexually assaulted a Las Vegas casino employee.
Less than 10 months after that allegation, a college student in Milledgeville, Ga., accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her at a nightclub in March. Though charges were never filed, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slapped the two-time Super Bowl winner with a four-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Roethlisberger officially rejoined the team Oct. 4, the day after the team's bye week began.
"What had to be said was said a long time ago," receiver Mike Wallace said. "He was sorry when it first happened, so we didn't need to go over it again or have him apologize. He doesn't have to do that. We know that he's sorry, and we know he's ready to play football."
The Steelers certainly showed up ready to play during Roethlisberger's suspension, overcoming a passing game that's last in the league at 136.0 yards per game behind Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Pittsburgh, though, leads the league in scoring defense at 12.5 points per game even after a 17-14 loss to Baltimore on Oct. 3.
The Steelers are also forcing three turnovers a game, a far cry from a defense that totaled three takeaways during a five-game losing streak last season.
The final contest in that skid came against the Browns (1-4). Roethlisberger had won all 10 meetings versus the Steelers' AFC North rivals, but a 13-6 loss in Cleveland on Dec. 10 all but erased any chance Pittsburgh would have of defending its Super Bowl title.
"They really got after us. We never want to make excuses, but we really just didn't play good football," Roethlisberger said. "... Point blank, we just couldn't do anything on offense."
The Steelers defense is expecting Cleveland to be uttering similar frustrations Sunday. With Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace nursing high ankle sprains suffered against Atlanta on Sunday, the Browns left the 20-10 loss with McCoy as their only healthy quarterback.
Cleveland signed veteran Brett Ratliff, who has spent time in coach Eric Mangini's system before, but all indications are that McCoy will start with Delhomme and Wallace unlikely to practice this week.
"Everybody's got to get their feet wet at some point. ... It's only the Steelers, right? Coming off a bye week? They don't blitz much," Mangini joked.
The last game McCoy started was Texas' 2010 BCS championship game loss to Alabama, when he left in the first quarter with a shoulder injury.
He's plenty familiar with the Steelers' schemes, though.
"I've watched them play for a long time," McCoy said. "They've won Super Bowls. They've got tremendous players - (James) Harrison, Polamalu, (LaMarr) Woodley. They're all good. Casey Hampton went to UT so I know him. I have all the respect in the world for those guys. We know what challenge we have ahead of us."
For their part, the Steelers don't want to take McCoy lightly.
He's got a tremendous opportunity to start off with a great story," Polamalu said. "We have all been in this situation where we've been underdogs or been favored and it doesn't turn out the way everyone thinks it will. With all the lessons we learned in the past, we could have our hands full."
The Browns' upset of Pittsburgh in December included a heavy dose of a wildcat offense with Joshua Cribbs under center, a strategy Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't be surprised to see used again.
"That's usually the nature of the league and that's what makes it so awesome," Tomlin said. "When you show areas of deficiency, usually you are going to continue to see those challenges until you fix it. We didn't fix it in that football game."
Gaining any yards on the ground against Pittsburgh won't be easy. The Steelers boast the NFL's No. 1 rush defense (62.3 ypg), and they've held Michael Turner, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice to a combined 2.2 yards per carry.
Peyton Hillis doesn't have a career resume that measures up to those players, but he ran for 246 yards in games against Baltimore and Cincinnati in Week 3 and 4. Hillis, however, managed 28 yards versus the Falcons after injuring a quad in practice leading up to the game.
Cleveland doesn't have much experience behind him, either. The Browns dealt backup Jerome Harrison to Philadelphia for fellow running back Mike Bell on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh has won its last six home games in the series by an average of 15.2 points.
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