A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns:
LEAKING LINE:** Jonathan Cooper, a former No. 1 pick by Arizona (2013) who was claimed off waivers from New England this season (Week Six), has taken over at right guard for John Greco (IR). Otherwise, it's the same group that started the Browns' 24-9 loss to the Steelers on Nov. 20 in Cleveland (left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Spencer Durango, center Cameron Irving and right tackle Austin Pasztor). It's also the group that allowed nine sacks in last Sunday's 20-17 victory over San Diego, a total that bloated the number of sacks the Browns have surrendered over the past six games to 40 (20 NFL teams have allowed fewer than that this season, including the Steelers at 17). Cleveland has allowed 62 sacks in 15 games.
BREAKING TRENDS: The 20 points the Browns scored against the Chargers snapped a streak of six consecutive games in which Cleveland had scored 13 or fewer. The Browns have scored more than 20 points three times and are 0-3 in those games.
Other atypical developments in the San Diego game included:
-The Browns having a lead at halftime (17-10) for the fourth time this season.
-The Browns scoring seven first-quarter points (surpassing their combined total of six in their previous six games).
-The Browns scoring their first two offensive touchdowns in their past seven games.
STAYING ENGAGED:** The way the Browns comport themselves doesn't portray a 1-14 team, particularly on defense. The Browns still run to the ball in numbers, still hit hard and still compete. They held San Diego to 34 yards rushing on 19 carries. The Chargers playing from behind and trying to play around injuries at running back and on the offensive line was a factor, but so was the way the Browns got after it. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton isn't shy about blitzing and playing press coverage.
MUSICAL QUARTERBACKS: Six players have taken snaps at quarterback this season, including wide receiver and former quarterback Terrelle Pryor Sr., and four have started. Robert Griffin III started the opener and the previous three games but was unable to finish the San Diego game (concussion). The combined totals at the position include 13 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions and a passer rating of 76.3.
Griffin completed 17 of 25 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions against the Chargers before suffering a concussion when he was sacked for the seventh time. He also rushed six times for 42 yards. When he committed to throw or go as soon as his back foot hit the ground at the conclusion of his drop, he was effective. Bouts with indecision and inaccuracy were also noticeable. Three of Griffin's runs in the first half converted first downs, a third-and-6 (scramble for 7), a third-and-8 (scramble for 8) and a second-and-10 (a read/option keeper for 12).
Griffin completed passes to seven different players in the first half and eight in the game (he targeted nine). He could have had a couple of touchdown passes but for a Pryor drop on a 44-yard throw into the end zone and a late and high attempt to hit wide receiver Andrew Hawkins in the back of the end zone (Hawkins caught the ball but came down out of bounds).
Third-round rookie Cody Kessler leads the Browns' small army of quarterbacks in starts (eight) attempts (195), completions (128), passing yards (1,380) and passer rating (92.3), and is tied for the team lead with Josh McCown with six touchdown passes. Kessler has taken care of the football (two interceptions) but hasn't consistently been able to deliver it down the field.
THAT GUY AGAIN: The Steelers will get their third look at linebacker Jamie Collins Sr., who was traded from New England to Cleveland in Week Eight. Collins already has 16 tackles against the Steelers this season. He has 59 overall, along with two sacks and a forced fumble, in seven games with the Browns. Collins can stuff the run, blitz and cover, and he'll do so from various spots on the field.
THE YOUNG AND THE (ALMOST) WINLESS: Cleveland has 19 rookies on its roster, including five that are listed as starters on this week's depth chart (wide receiver Corey Coleman, Durango, Kessler, fullback Danny Vitale and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah).