Steelers (3-1) vs. Cleveland Browns (1-4)
at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday, October 17 – 1:00 PM on CBS
Steelers: second place AFC North
Favorite: Steelers by 13.5
Browns: Lost to the Falcons 10-20 in Atlanta
· The Browns left Atlanta with a loss on the score sheet and two more losses on the roster, as the Browns suffered two quarterback injuries on the road.
· Cleveland got off to a terrible start as RB Peyton Hillis fumbled the ball away to Atlanta on the third snap of the game. Even with some early game struggles, the Browns managed to keep Atlanta off the scoreboard until the second quarter, when Falcons kicker Matt Bryant hit a 24-yard field goal.
· Peyton Hillis atoned for his early fumble on the next drive, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from QB Seneca Wallace, putting the Browns up 7-3. Hillis finished with just 28 yards rushing, but caught four passes for 49 yards.
· Atlanta chipped its way into the redzone in an attempt to answer, but was forced to settle for a second field goal as the Browns defense held its ground.
· Cleveland’s special teams blocked a field goal attempt by Matt Bryant shortly after the two minute warning, but a sack by John Abraham halted the Browns’ offense and sent QB Seneca Wallace out of the game with an ankle injury. At that point in the game, Wallace was 11-of-15 for 139 yards and a touchdown.
· Jake Delhomme took over on offense after an Atlanta fumble early in the second half and drove the Browns to the two-yard line before settling for a 19-yard Phil Dawson field goal.
· However, the dam finally broke on the next drive as Falcons WR Roddy White cut through the secondary for a 45-yard touchdown reception, giving Atlanta its first lead of the game at 13-10.
· The game was quiet until the fourth quarter when Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann tipped one of Jake Delhomme’s passes. Biermann snatched it before it hit the ground and them rumbled for a 41-yard touchdown and a 20-10 Atlanta lead.
· A second interception of Delhomme ended any hope of a comeback for Cleveland, who also found out that Delhomme may have re-injured his ankle on the last series.
Steelers: BYE WEEK
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
A Look Around the AFC North
Baltimore (4-1) ran all over the Denver Broncos for a 31-17 win that wasn’t that close. The Ravens scored on four rushing touchdowns– two by Ray Rice, one by Willis McGahee, and one by QB Joe Flacco. That group, assisted by RB/FB Le’Ron McClain, managed to rack up 223 yards on the ground. It was Rice’s best game of the season as he showed the vision and cutback ability that made him one of the league’s most dangerous backs last season.
The passing game was relatively quiet, mostly due to the team’s success on the ground. However, the resurgence of said ground game could be the final step in Baltimore living up to the pre-season hype surrounding its maturing offense.
Cincinnati (2-3) lost the second-straight game by the margin of a field goal as they let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leave town with a 24-21 win. 10 of Tampa Bay’s 24 points came in the last two minutes of the game and both scoring chances came courtesy of interceptions thrown by Bengals QB Carson Palmer. Cedric Benson had his best game of the season, racking up 144 yards with a 6.3 yards per carry average, but his success could not overcome four offensive turnovers, three of which came from Palmer’s hand.
Terrell Owens was the other stand-out from Sunday, as he posted his second-straight 100+ receiving game. However, he will likely be fined for tweeting too close to game time.
Steeler Nation, whom he expects to provide returning-starter Ben Roethlisberger with a positive reception come Sunday. “We are a professional sport and we get so much energy from our fans and we work hard to entertain and please them,” said Tomlin. “They really kind of make us go. I expect him to get a warm reception. I really do. I really think that is the nature of Steeler Nation.”
STEELERS INJURY UPDATE
RG Trai Essex is the only injury of note as he continues to rehab an ankle injury. If he can’t go, Doug Legursky will make his third straight start for Pittsburgh. Expect Essex to be listed somewhere between PROBABLE and QUESTIONABLE this week.
BROWNS INJURY UPDATE
QB Seneca Wallace suffered a high-ankle sprain on a sack shortly before halftime against Atlanta and is currently listed as QUESTIONABLE, though the nature of his injury makes it more likely that he’ll sit than play against Pittsburgh.
QB Jake Delhomme, who relieved Wallace after the injury, re-injured his own ankle shortly before the end of the game. He has been diagnosed with both a high and a low-ankle sprain to the same ankle. Like Wallace, he is currently listed as QUESTIONABLE but it is highly unlikely that he’ll see action on Sunday.
If neither QB can go, rookie Colt McCoy will start with Brett Ratliff as his backup.
MAIN STORYLINE FOR SUNDAY
What else? How will Ben Roethlisberger fare in his return to NFL action following a four-game suspension for violating the player conduct policy?
BROWNS TO WATCH
RB Peyton Hillis; WRs Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie; WR/KR Joshua Cribbs; TE Benjamin Watson; LT Joe Thomas; LG Eric Steinbach; C Alex Mack; LBs Matt Roth and Scott Fujita; DEs Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman; NT Shaun Rogers; CBs Sheldon Brown, Eric Wright, and Joe Haden; SS T.J. Ward
Browns running backs coach Gary Brown played at Penn State from 1987 to 1990.
ACCORDING TO TOMLIN
“I always view the bye week with mixed emotions. It’s always good to step away and reflect a little bit, self-evaluate, make potential corrections, and grow. But at the same time you’re always somewhat nervous when you miss out on some action. There’s always some anxiety that comes with getting back to action, so we’ll have to sort through those feelings this week.” – Discussing his thoughts on the bye week. Pittsburgh players practiced three days last week and received the weekend off before resuming practice on Monday.
“More than anything we wanted to develop from a skills standpoint. We wanted to provide practice as improvement opportunities for our young players. We wanted to provide rehab opportunities for our rehab players and rest for some of our elderly players. It was about focusing on us, getting better and improving.” – Further discussing the bye week, which was focused on development more than evaluation, a focus that was the product of the bye week coming so early in the season for the Steelers.
“I think we should expect to see a great deal of Cribbs in the wildcat, regardless of their quarterback situation because he had such success against us a year ago and that’s usually the nature of this league. When you show areas of deficiency, usually you’ll continue to see those challenges until you fix it. And we didn’t fix it in that football game. We’ll have an opportunity to maybe fix it in this one. If we don’t, we’re going to see quite a bit of it.” – When asked if the team expected to see Cribbs operate out of the wildcat formation due to the injuries to the Browns top-two quarterbacks. Cribbs did a great deal of damage out of the formation in a win over the Steelers last season, rushing for 87 yards on eight carries.
“He always does because he is a ridiculous competitor. When he has an opportunity to compete, you feel him in the room or in the stadium. One of the interesting attributes about him as a player and as a person, when faced with adversity and given the opportunity to compete, man he does. I think guys feed off that.” – When asked if Ben will provide a morale boost to the team with his return to action.
“There is really no secret to playing good defense. I don’t care if you are talking about Cleveland’s defense, our defense or anyone. When the guys are where they are supposed to be, guys make timely plays and they play together and hustle, you have the chance to play some good football.” – Answering what Cleveland’s defense did so well in their win last season. Tomlin believed the biggest factor was that they played smart and positioned themselves well.
Emmanuel Sanders to get a shot at returning kickoffs and punts on Sunday. Tomlin voluntarily remarked that he might be making some changes in the return area and Sanders was the name that kept coming up.
“He’s a rough-and-tumble guy that wears you down. That is their personality. They’ve pounded some teams with him, Baltimore Ravens included in that.” – Discussing Browns RB Peyton Hillis, who racked up over 140 yards on the Ravens defense when Cleveland played them earlier this season.
“Maurkice Pouncey, of course, will be introduced to some more AFC North football this week when he tries to block that man.” – On the matchup between rookie center Maurkice Pouncey and Browns NT Shaun Rogers, who takes most of his snaps in sub-package football.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMM…
According to Football Outsiders, Cleveland’s defense is the worst in the league at defending passes the #1 receivers, and that was before Roddy White burned the unit for five catches, 101 yards, and what would be the game-winning touchdown on Sunday.
Hines Ward has to be licking his chops with his quarterback returning against this pass defense.