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Steelers vs. Browns Gameday Thread/Preview

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It's Steelers week, and our troops have promised us that we will not see anything close to the 41-0 meltdown on Christmas Eve last season. We better not only see an improvement, we better see a win. The Steelers are 3-6, and although they still have some very talented players on their team, they have not played good football this season. They've done well at stopping the running games on opposing teams, but if the Browns realize they can't run anyway, that aspect of Pittsburgh's defense won't help too much. The Buckeyes' win over the Wolverines has already made many Cleveland fans happy (maybe not Braylon Edwards), but this is the game that I really care about. Let's get to the breakdown of this week's game...

OFFENSE

Category Steelers Browns
Points Scored 23.8 (8th) 16.6 (24th)
Passing 255.0 (5th) 170.7 (26th)
Rushing 120.7 (10th) 81.2 (30th)
Total Offense (yards) 375.7 (5th) 251.9 (29th)

DEFENSE

Category Steelers Browns
Points Scored 23.0 (23rd) 20.4 (17th)
Passing 211.7 (16th) 183.0 (6th)
Rushing 97.9 (9th) 143.6 (30th)
Total Defense (yards) 309.6 (11th) 326.6 (19th)
- Quarterback
Last year, a lot of people, including myself, believed that Ben Roethlisberger would fall into a sophomore slump. About 21 weeks later, he led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory. He hasn't had the same Cinderella storyline this season though, because for the most part, he has been very inconsistent after his motorcycle accident, a concussion, and his appendectomy. Although Frye has one less touchdown than him, Big Ben has been picked off one more time than Frye has. Roethlisberger has single handily cost Pittsburgh several games, including an awful one against the Raiders two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Frye is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, but has had his share of growing pains this season.
- Running Back
Pittsburgh's defense may not be as threatening this year, but they can still stop the run effectively. That's why you can imagine that I'm somewhat hoping that Reuben Droughns isn't able to play tomorrow, and that Jerome Harrison gets a shot to play. No, I don't think Harrison has more power, but he does have the speed to get to the outside when something opens up, and is a bigger threat as a guy coming out of the backfield. Regardless, the Steelers still have the clear advantage hear with Willie Parker, who is coming off the best game of his season. We haven't seen screen plays against us in weeks, but I guarantee you that the Steelers will run several of them to either Parker or backup Najeh Davenport.
- Receiver
Slowly, the passing threats in Pittsburgh have dwindled. First it was Plaxico Burress, and then this year it was Antwaan Randle El. Hines Ward is still himself, but no one has shined between Cedrick Wilson, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, and Nate Washington. Roethlisberger doesn't seem to have as much chemistry with them yet. Meanwhile, Kellen Winslow is coming off of an amazing game, and although Braylon Edwards stats weren't flashy last week, Charlie Frye is clearly starting to get more comfortable with what his receivers are attempting to do.
- Offensive Line
Roethlisberger has been sacked often this year, but it's still nothing compared to how often Frye is getting knocked down. Both quarterbacks have had the same problem this year: holding onto the football too long. While it's a good mentality to stay in the pocket and trust your linemen, a last second improvisation can often turn into a turnover. The Steelers' run blocking is down a little, but still leaps and bounds better than the Browns. Cleveland signed LeCharles Bentley in the offseason specifically to deal with Casey Hampton twice a year, but that'll have to wait until 2007.
- Defensive Line
When teams try to run it against Casey Hampton up the middle, they aren't going to get it done very often. However, part of the reason teams have had so much success in throwing the football against Pittsburgh this year is their inability to generate as much of a pass rush as they used to. The Browns defensive line can't generate a great pass rush period, but the veterans have held their own and aren't allowing teams to dominate the line of scrimmage. Still, the edge has to go to the Steelers on this one.
- Linebacker
In last week's game, our linebackers deserved an "A" for their effort against Michael Vick. Even the backup players like Leon Williams did their job when given the chance, and players like Andra Davis and Kamerion Wimbley stepped their games up. Like it or not though, the Steelers are very good at this position with guys like Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, James Farrior, and Larry Foote. They know how to blitz, and they are a major reason we were blown out 41-0 last season. Our unit needs to step it up and force some similar pressure on the interception-prone Roethlisberger.
- Secondary
For the second week in a row, the Browns are facing a team that is really hurting in the secondary. Pittsburgh is beat up in their secondary, and the unit has been the biggest disappointment on the team this season besides Roethlisberger. Troy Polamalu was cleared to play after a concussion, and healthy or not, he's bound to be a threat. The Browns will be without Leigh Bodden again, but with the way our safeties are playing and our cornerbacks are disciplined by Mel Tucker, it's not going to be easy to throw against us.
- Special Teams
The Steelers special teams, which has been pretty solid the past couple of seasons, has really dropped off. Santonio Holmes has fumbled several kickoffs, Jeff Reed is not making his "automatic" kicks, and Chris Gardocki isn't quite booming the ball like he used to. The Browns' return game was rather quiet against the Falcons last week, and we'd like nothing more than another classic return in this one. Phil Dawson has been here long enough to know what Pittsburgh is all about, but unfortunately, all he can do is kick the football.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 20.
This would cap off a very entertaining weekend for me. Not only would this be a huge win for the fans of Cleveland, but it'd be a big win for head coach Romeo Crennel as well. Crennel needs to establish that his team is ready to overtake the Steelers and win when we're in a "big game". We have not "owned" the Steelers since we've returned to the league, and even when we made the playoffs under Butch Davis, we lost to Pittsburgh three times that season. It's time that the Steelers get what's been coming to them. And one more thing, I am going to say this one more time, as I've been calling it on this blog since Week 3: I'm taking that this is the game where Joshua Cribbs attempts a pass on a trick play. So, if we run the play, I'll brag. And, if we don't, well then I'll wonder what in the world we're waiting for. The talk from the Browns this week has been nothing but encouraging this week. Thankfully, we haven't heard any classic "Kill the head, and the body's dead" quotes...

This is the official gameday thread for today's game. Any comments you would like to make before, during, or after the game should be placed into this thread. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!