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Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers: Week Twelve Preview
The Cleveland Browns host their long time division rival Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at First Energy Stadium. The Browns (4-6) are looking to put a disappointing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals behind them while the Steelers (4-6) try to extend their winning streak to three games, potentially their longest of the season. With the Browns, Steelers and Baltimore Ravens all tied for second place in the AFC North, this is an important divisional game for both teams. Here is a look at this week’s keys to the game for the Cleveland Browns.
Attack Ben Roethlisberger
The Browns only managed eight total quarterback pressures last Sunday against the Bengals, and none of them were sacks. The Steelers don’t have a very talented offensive line as they have allowed 138 quarterback pressures (9th most), 25 of those being sacks (2nd most).
Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 36 times which is second only to Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. Despite being sacked so frequently, Roethlisberger has actually handled pressure well in terms of accuracy. He has completed 55 of his 108 passes while under pressure (50.9 percent) for 804 yards. However, six of his 10 interceptions have come while being pressured, so even if the Browns don’t sack him they can still force a mistake.
Before the bye week defensive coordinator Ray Horton said that he still hasn’t completely opened things up as far as a pass rush goes. What better week to do so than at home against his former team and their patchy offensive line?
Joe Haden vs. Antonio Brown
Joe Haden did a great job shutting down A.J. Green last week, and has basically shut down every receiver he’s gone against this season. Antonio Brown might not be the big time play maker like Green or Calvin Johnson, but he is talented and can hurt you, as he currently leads the league in receptions with 74. Brown has gotten the best of Haden in terms of career numbers, catching six passes on seven targets for 148 yards and two touchdowns in three games against each other, so Haden again will have to be on his game.
For his career (going back to 2010) Brown has caught 17 passes for 315 yards and two scores against the Browns. Haden, who had his best day as a pro last week, has met every challenge head on so far this season and will have to do so again in order to keep Brown in check.
While the Steelers currently rank eighth in the league in passing yards allowed, that number is a bit deceptive. For starters, their defense allows an average of just over 125 yards per game on the ground (26th in the league), so teams don’t have to throw to beat them. Secondly, their defense has only seen 325 passing attempts which is 7th fewest in the league (the Eagles have seen the most this season at 484 passing attempts). The normally reliable Ike Taylor has struggled all season long in pass coverage, allowing 39 receptions on 64 passes into his coverage for 638 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterbacks have a QB Rating of 110 when throwing into Taylor’s coverage and he has not recorded an interception all season. He will more than likely be matched up on Josh Gordon, so Jason Campbell should take shots down field in Taylor’s direction.
Taylor isn’t the only Steeler to struggle in pass coverage either.
Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has also been unreliable in pass coverage this season for Pittsburgh. While he does have one interception and two passes defensed (broken up), Timmons has allowed 34 catches on 46 passes into his primary coverage for 330 yards and a touchdown; 206 of his yards allowed have been yards after the catch. We saw Campbell target Chris Ogbonnaya and Jordan Cameron a combined 19 times against the Bengals, so clearly there is a good level of comfort here. If the Browns can get either Ogbonnaya or Cameron lined up against Timmons in passing situations yardage can be had in chunks.
This is a fairly evenly matched game, at least on paper, and with cold and snowy weather coming to Cleveland it’s setting up to be a typical AFC North football game. Look for Cleveland to come out and try to send a message early while at the same time trying to take the bad taste out of their mouth from last weeks loss. Cleveland wins at home by a score of 27-21.
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