CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns host the Pittsburgh Steelers with the season on the line for both teams Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns can all but end the Steelers playoff hopes with a victory but a loss would all but end theirs. That’s because both teams enter the game at 4-6 and on the periphery of the AFC Wild Card picture – just 1 game back along with the Baltimore Ravens and 3 other teams, who are also 4-6 entering the weekend.
Pittsburgh started the season 0-4 but have bounced back to win 4 of their last 6 while the Browns have dropped 4 of their last 5.
No team in the AFC North has won a divisional game on the road this season.
The Steelers lead the overall series 63-57 but have won 24 of the last 29 meetings – including 10 of the last 12 in Cleveland – since 1999 between the 2 teams.
Last Week – Steelers beat Lions 37-27; Browns lost to Bengals 41-20
What To Watch For – The weather. Neither team runs the ball very well but may have to abandon leaning solely on the passing game with cold, wind and periodic snow squalls in the forecast. Pittsburgh is 30th (765 yards) while the Browns are 26th (836 yards) running the football this year. Steelers rookie RB Le’Veon Bell leads the team with 375 yards and all 4 rushing touchdowns – 3 of them on the road – this season. Chris Ogbonnaya emerged last week in the loss to the Bengals accounting for 99 yards – 69 on the ground – and could be featured more this week with Willis McGahee struggling. McGahee has run for just 275 yards and is averaging just 2.6 per carry in 8 games.
Browns receiver Josh Gordon has become the Browns big play maker and if conditions allow, the Browns will need him to make a few. The Steelers have given up a league-leading 9 plays over 50 yards this season and all of Gordon’s 9 career TDs have been 20-plus yards. His 1,556 yards receiving through his first 24 games are the most in team history.
An Ohio native, Ben Roethlisberger is 15-1 in career against the Browns and is 37-11 against the AFC North. Roethlisberger, who threw for 367 yards and 4 touchdowns in last week’s win over the Lions, needs 5 TD passes to pass Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw (212) for the most in franchise history. Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said this week that Roethlisberger is the most difficult quarterback to bring down
Browns cornerback Joe Haden had 2 interceptions last week, returned 1 for a TD and shut down Bengals receiver A.J. Green again limiting him to 2 catches and 7 yards. This year vs. 6 former Pro Bowl receivers including Green, Calvin Johnson and Mike Wallace – Haden has limited them to 17 receptions for 147 yards and 0 touchdowns. He’s allowed just 1 TD this season while breaking up 14 passes.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu has 8 career interceptions against Cleveland, his most against any opponent. Browns quarterback Jason Campbell, who is 1-2 since assuming the starting role, threw 3 interceptions in last week’s loss at Cincinnati.
Rankings – CBS Power Rankings: Browns No. 21, Steelers No. 24; AP PRO32: Steelers No. 20, Browns No. 22
Steelers Offense — Overall (15), Rush (30), Pass (7)
Steelers Defense — Overall (14), Rush (26), Pass (8)
Browns Offense — Overall (25), Rush (26), Pass (18)
Browns Defense — Overall (5), Rush (8), Pass (4)
The Last Time – Steelers beat Browns 24-10, Dec. 30, 2012
Game Status – OUT: TE MarQueis Gray (hamstring); DOUTBFUL: LB Craig Robertson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: DE Armonty Bryant (back); PROBABLE: RB Willis McGahee (knees), RT Mitchell Schwartz (toe), P Spencer Lanning (knee), RB Fozzy Whittaker (ankle), OL Jason Pinkston (ankle) and LB Paul Kruger (finger)
Projected Starters – OFFENSE: WR Josh Gordon, WR: Greg Little, LT: Joe Thomas, LG: John Greco, C: Alex Mack, RG: Shawn Lauvao, RT: Mitchell Schwartz, TE: Jordan Cameron, QB: Jason Campbell, RB Willis McGahee, FB: Chris Ogbonnaya
DEFENSE: RE: Desmond Bryant, NT: Phil Taylor, LE Ahtyba Rubin, ROLB: Jabaal Sheard, RILB: Craig Robertson, LILB: D’Qwell Jackson, ROLB: Paul Kruger, RCB: Buster Skrine, LCB: Joe Haden, FS: Tashaun Gipson, SS: T.J. Ward
Broadcast – Sports Radio 92.3 The Fan WKRK-FM, Cleveland’s Classic Rock 98.5 WNCX-FM, 850 WKNR-AM and the PNC Bank Cleveland Browns Radio Network; WOIO TV-19 (CBS)
Kickoff – 1:03 p.m., FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland, OH
Prediction – Browns 16, Steelers 13
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