NFL Preview - Pittsburgh (6-4) at Cleveland (2-8)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Steelers wore their throwback uniforms last
week, but you'll have to forgive their fans if they're feeling a sense of deja
vu this week as well.
Coach Mike Tomlin and Co. head to Cleveland to face the Browns this weekend
with some familiar old faces expected to play a role -- namely substitute
starting quarterback Charlie Batch and recently re-signed wide receiver
Batch fills in for both Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) and Byron Leftwich (rib)
while making his first start since last December and his eighth since arriving
in Pittsburgh in 2003, after he'd started 46 games with the Detroit Lions
between 1998 and 2001.
The 35-year-old Burress, meanwhile, will make his initial appearance of 2012
and first with the Steelers since 2004. He spent 2005 through 2008 with the
New York Giants and was jailed on a gun charge before returning to the NFL
with the New York Jets last season.
He caught 45 passes and scored eight touchdowns in 2011, but was not re-signed
by the Jets.
Burress was brought in as insurance for banged-up receiver Antonio Brown,
who's missed two straight games with an ankle injury. The veteran had a pair
of 1,000-yard seasons in his initial stint with Pittsburgh.
"He's in really good physical condition based on the workout I saw," Tomlin
said. "He's got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight
at break points and obviously he's no stranger to football."
At 6-4, the Steelers enter the week in the lead for the AFC's two wild card
playoff berths and will try to maintain that position with the 37-year-old
Batch, who's 5-2 as a Pittsburgh starter and defeated the Browns, 34-21, while
completing 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards in November 2005.
The Steelers have one offensive touchdown since Roethlisberger was injured two
"Charlie's a great quarterback, and he's also been in the league for some time
now," cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "He knows the offense upside down, so if
we have to rely on Charlie, we know he could get in there and win games."
Pittsburgh converted just five third-down opportunities with Leftwich under
center last week against the Baltimore Ravens after establishing a 49-percent
success rate with Roethlisberger at the helm. Working in the Steelers' favor
is a Cleveland run defense that's 24th in the league with a weekly clip of
125.4 yards allowed.
Rashard Mendenhall returned from a four-week absence with 33 yards against
Baltimore and has maxed out at 84 yards in six games against the Browns. He's
supplemented by Jonathan Dwyer, who actually leads the team with 410 rush
On defense, Pittsburgh is the league's best in total yardage (259.1 allowed
per game) and stands fifth in scoring with 19 points surrendered per week.
Cleveland has scored only two touchdowns in its last four games against the
The Browns scored twice against Dallas last week, but lost a 13-point lead
while dropping a 23-20 overtime verdict. It was a familiar scenario for
Cleveland, which has lost five games this season by seven points or less and a
league-high 18 since the start of 2010.
Two penalties accounted for 50 yards on the Cowboys' tying drive in the fourth
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw two scoring passes to Ben Watson
against Dallas and running back Trent Richardson went for 95 yards while
falling short of a third straight game with 100.
On the plus side, cornerback Joe Haden should return this week after not
playing last week with an injured oblique muscle. The Browns are 0-5 without
"We just have to find a way to finish," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We have a
whole locker room full of winners. This whole organization is full of winners.
We just have to put it all together and do it."
The Steelers lead the historic all-time series, 62-56, and have dominated in
recent years while taking 21 of the last 23 games. Tomlin is 9-1 in his career
against the Browns, while Cleveland's Shurmur is winless in two games against
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Though the old-school personnel they've brought in this week may be familiar
with the Steelers' scheme, it's still more likely that offensive coordinator
Todd Haley will simplify the scheme with high-percentage passes and up-the-gut
The Browns only allowed 63 ground yards against Dallas, but the 125.4-yard
weekly average includes 4.2 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. In fact,
only four teams in the league -- Baltimore (328), Tennessee (303),
Jacksonville (331) and the New York Jets (359) -- have been run on more than
the Browns' 299 attempts.
The Browns have certainly shown an ability to stay in games this season with a
dynamic set of youngsters -- Weeden and Richardson, in particular -- on
offense. And, in a bitter rivalry that's usually seen them on the short end,
they ought to have motivation on their side as well. Cap it off with home-
field advantage and a visiting foe that's racked with injuries and you have
all the necessary ingredients for an upset.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Browns 17, Steelers 16
11/23 08:53:50 ET