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2013 Opponents Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

Posted Jul 23, 2013

As the 2013 season approaches, ClevelandBrowns.com looks at the Browns’ regular-season opponents. Today, we highlight the home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Storylines:

The Cleveland Browns earned a 20-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home last November, and the team is looking to build off of that success against their AFC North Division rival in 2013.

In the Browns’ victory last season, two of their rookie offensive players made an impact.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 17 of 26 attempts for 158 yards with one touchdown, a five-yard scoring pass to tight end Jordan Cameron, while running back Trent Richardson rushed for 85 yards and a 15-yard touchdown on 29 carries. It was the fourth-straight game in which Richardson rushed for at least 85 yards, and set off another streak of four consecutive games where he scored at least one touchdown.

Although Weeden and Richardson were unable to play in the rematch because of injuries suffered in a loss at Denver on Dec. 23, the Browns tested the Steelers and took a 10-10 tie into the fourth quarter.

While two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger gave the Steelers a victory, the Browns got solid production out of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who made his first NFL start in place of the injured Weeden and completed 22 of 32 attempts for 204 yards and one touchdown against an interception.

Stats:

The Steelers finished the 2012 regular season with an 8-8 record and placed third in the AFC North, but held advantages over their opponents in several key offensive categories.

Pittsburgh converted more first downs (307 to 273) than their opponents, and gained nearly 1,000 more yards (5,324 to 4,413). They held a 1,537 to 1,450 advantage in rushing yards and a 3,787 to 2,963 edge in passing yards.

Although the Steelers scored more touchdowns (36 to 33), held a nearly five-minute advantage in time of possession, and finished even in sacks allowed, 37, Pittsburgh was minus-10 in turnovers.

Roethlisberger completed 284 of 449 attempts for 3,265 yards and 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Despite being sacked 30 times for 182 lost yards while working with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, Roethlisberger had a 97.0 quarterback rating.

Tight end Heath Miller was Roethlisberger’s favorite outlet, catching a team-best 71 passes for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. Miller’s eight scores were tied for the most on the team with wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown caught the second-most passes, 66, for 787 yards and five scores.

When the Steelers ran the ball, they trusted it to Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Dwyer rushed for 623 yards and two touchdowns on 156 carries, while Redman gained 410 yards and scored twice on 110 attempts.

Rookie running back Chris Rainey carried the ball only 26 times, but scored two touchdowns with those attempts.

Linebackers Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons, and safety Ryan Clark each finished the year with more than 100 tackles. Foote had a team-high 113 total tackles and tied with Timmons for a Steelers-best 75 solo stops. Timmons and linebacker James Harrison each finished the year with six sacks, and Cortez Allen had a team-best three forced fumbles.

Timmons also proved to be solid in pass-coverage. He registered a team-best three interceptions, which he returned an average of 26.7 yards and for one touchdown.

Rainey showed he could have an impact by more than just carrying the ball. He returned 39 kickoffs for 1,035 yards.

Transactions:

Key Additions: The Steelers re-signed wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Plaxico Burress, Foote and fellow linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, and Dwyer. They also signed tight end Matt Spaeth (from Chicago).

Key Losses: Wallace (to Miami) and Harrison (released).

Draft: The Steelers selected five defensive and four offensive players in the 2013 NFL Draft. With their first-round pick, the Steelers chose outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. On the second day of the draft, the Steelers chose running back Le’Veon Bell (second round) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (third). During the final day of the draft, the Steelers selected strong safety Shamarko Thomas and quarterback Landry Jones in the fourth round, and added cornerback Terry Hawthorne in the fifth. In the sixth round, Pittsburgh selected wide receiver Justin Brown and linebacker Vince Williams. With their final pick, the Steelers chose defensive tackle Nick Williams.

Familiar Faces:

Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer spent part of the 2012 season with the Steelers.

Cleveland running back Dion Lewis, offensive lineman Jason Pinkston and outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard went to the University of Pittsburgh.

Pinkston (Pittsburgh) and wide receiver Jordan Norwood (State College) are Pennsylvania natives.

Norwood went to Penn State University, and offensive lineman Martin Wallace attended Temple University in Philadelphia.

Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton was the Steelers’ assistant defensive backs coach from 2004-06, and later served as the defensive backs coach from 2007-10.

Assistant strength-and-conditioning coach Chris DiSanto graduated from West Chester (Pa.) University in 2000, and later coached with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Browns wide receivers coach Scott Turner held a similar position at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. He also spent two seasons, 2008-09, as an offensive assistant for the Panthers.

Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski played two games, and made one start with the Browns in 2008.

Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham took part in the Browns’ 2010 offseason, and offensive lineman John Malecki spent two weeks in training camp with the Browns in 2010.

Roethlisberger (Lima/Findlay High School), fullback Will Johnson (Dayton/Centerville H.S.), offensive linemen Mike Adams (Dublin/Coffman H.S.) and Joe Madsen (Chardon), and Bell (Columbus/Groveport Madison H.S.) are Ohio natives.

Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio), linebacker Brian Rolle (The Ohio State University), Adams (Ohio State), Suisham (Bowling Green State University), and defensive end Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) played college football in Ohio.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the defensive backs coach at the University of Cincinnati from 1999-2000.

Pittsburgh assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell spent three years coaching the Browns’ defensive line from 1991-93, and mentored Michael Dean Perry and Rob Burnett to Pro Bowl appearances.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is a native of London, Ohio, and played football at Ohio State before being drafted by the Browns in 1959. LeBeau went on to be an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1980-83, and again from 1997-2000. He was elevated to the Bengals’ head coaching position three games into the 2000 season and spent another two years in that position.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler held a similar position with the Browns from 1999-2002.

Pittsburgh wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner is a Cleveland native.

Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky is a native of Youngstown, where he went to Chaney High School. Olsavsky later coached at Chaney and Youngstown State University.

History:

The Browns carry a 57-63-0 record against the Steelers into 2013, including a 36-24-0 mark at home.