Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) vs. Cleveland Browns (2-7)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015
Here is a look at the statistical leaders for the both the Steelers and Browns heading into the Week 10 contest at Heinz Field.
SERIES HISTORY:Steelers lead, 66-58 (Steelers lead, 2-0 postseason).LAST MEETING:** Browns 31, Steelers 10, Oct. 12, 2014, FirstEnergy Stadium: The Steelers jumped to a 3-0 lead during a dominating first quarter that saw them rush for 57 yards and limit the Browns to minus 8 yards of offense in the first 15 minutes. Cleveland's response was to score 31 unanswered points. Browns QB Brian Hoyer completed only eight passes (on 17 attempts) but threw for 217 yards and one touchdown.
LAST TIME OUT:The Steelers blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead but still beat the Raiders at the buzzer, 38-35, last Sunday at Heinz Field. Cleveland hung around for a half on Nov. 5 at Cincinnati before eventually losing, 31-10.
WHEN THE BROWNS HAVE THE BALL:Running it might not be much of an option based on Cleveland's No. 31 ranking in rushing offense and on the Browns' 3.5 average per carry.
In the best of times they can get something established on the ground and advance that to bootlegs and throw-backs off play-action and then eventually get the ball down the field. That progression is more predictable and more consistent if Josh McCown is at QB. McCown leads the NFL in third-down passer rating at 137.3 (he's completed 72.9 percent of his third-down attempts, with seven TDs and one INT). Second-year QB Johnny Manziel's play this season suggests he's much more comfortable getting outside of the pocket quickly and trying to make something happen with his arm or with his legs.
TE Gary Barnidge has 42 catches and six receiving TDs. WRs Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel are all more No. 3 receiver-like in stature (they stand 5-foot-7, 5-10 and 5-8). The Browns lack a big, physical player at the position that can create mismatches, although Benjamin can fly. Rookie RB Duke Johnson can be an effective weapon in the passing game and has more TDs receiving (two) than rushing (0). Cleveland has two rushing touchdowns this season, one by Manziel. RB Isaiah Crowell leads the Browns in rushing (333 yards, 3.3 per attempt) and managed 77 yards and one TD on 11 attempts against the Steelers last October. Rookie Cameron Erving will replace LG Joel Bitonio (ankle).
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL:They'll be confronted by a unit that's No. 29 in total defense, No. 32 in rushing defense and No. 21 in passing defense. All of that's helped contribute to a No. 26 ranking in scoring defense (27.4 points per game).
When the Browns' defense is working the way they intend it to they're able to get pressure, force the ball out of the pocket quickly and then ball-hawk in the secondary. CB Joe Haden and FS Tashaun Gipson both excel in that capacity (Gipson leads the NFL in interceptions since 2013 with 13, two of which have been returned for touchdowns) but Haden was inactive last week (concussion) and Gipson has missed three of the last five games.
Cleveland has size up front in RE Randy Starks (listed at 6-4, 305) and NT Danny Shelton (6-2, 339). But Shelton is one of three rookies listed as a starter on defense, along with OLB Nate Orchard and SS Ibraheim Campbell (Donte Whitner, concussion, was inactive against Cincinnati). The Browns have given up more points after halftime than they had in the first two quarters in eight of nine games.
SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS: Benjamin is No. 3 in the NFL with a 12.4 average per punt return and has taken one the distance this season and three in his career. WR Jacoby Jones' Steelers' debut in the Raiders game included a 20.8 average on kickoff returns and a 1.0 average on punt returns. WR Antonio Brown fumbled a punt return against Oakland. K Chris Boswell missed from 41 yards out after making his first 10 field goals with the Steelers but hit the game-winning kick from 18 yards out with two seconds left in regulation.THE X-FACTOR: The Steelers haven't lost to the Browns at home since the 2003 season (33-13). Will the Heinz Field Advantage be enough to help propel a relatively banged up Steelers team to its 12th straight home win over Cleveland?
THEY SAID IT:"What I've noticed is when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers they bring their 'A' game and they're ready to play so you throw the records aside. It's AFC North (Division) football, looking at footage from last year, just watching how they play and how they fly around. Those games count twice. It counts within your conference and it counts within your division so you definitely have to be careful there." - Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams on the Browns.