In addition to having the league’s top total defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers will bring the seventh-best running attack in the AFC to Cleveland Browns Stadium for Sunday’s AFC North Division game.
The Steelers have battled through injury problems in the backfield, but with a trio of running backs in Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh still averages 106.8 yards per game on the ground.
“They’ve got a good rotation of guys,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Friday. “Their run scheme is good and their backs are very similar in a lot of ways. They don’t really have to change what they do on offense. They can put a guy in there and he can have the same success as the next guy.”
Dwyer leads the team with 410 yards on 89 carries and averages 4.6 yards per rush. Redman has gained 300 yards and scored a Steelers-leading two touchdowns n 85 attempts and Mendenhall, who has worked his way back from a serious knee injury in the 2011 regular-season finale, has gained 107 yards on 30 carries.
The Steelers also have rookie Chris Rainey, who at 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, gives Pittsburgh a speed option out of the backfield. Rainey has gained 62 yards and scored one touchdown on 16 carries and 45 yards on 10 receptions.
“They’re all different,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “Some guys are spinners; some guys are speed guys. They use Chris Rainey a lot. I followed him when he was at the University of Florida. He’s a speed guy and when he’s in, he’s not in to protect. He’s in to get out of the backfield, try to create a mismatch on a linebacker. They use them all and typically, teams tend to use one or two backs. They tend to use them all in different areas of the game. They’re all talented, but Chris Rainey is the scat-and-speed guy.”
With the Steelers starting veteran quarterback Charlie Batch, their third starter in as many weeks, Jackson figures on seeing more runs on Sunday.
“In my opinion, I think they’re going to run the ball a ton and keep the game manageable for him, not try to do too much because they’ve got a lot of skill guys on the outside,” Jackson said. “Not saying that they’re not going to throw the ball downfield, but they’re going to put the game on the other guys around him.
“We watched a ton of film and I’ve played them my entire career, so I know the plays that they’re running. It’s just a matter of every guy being on the same page, understanding the concept of what they’re trying to do, understand that the linebackers and D-line have to control this game. You’re going to see a heavy dose of the run.”
Along with the run, Jackson expects the Browns-Steelers matchup to be a typical AFC North battle.
“It’s definitely going to be one of those games, hard-fought, nose-to-nose, grit-and-grind,” Jackson said. “It always is. They don’t like us; we don’t like them. If we can get after them early, we plan on getting after them the entire game and just make it hard on them. We’re ready for it. The guys have prepared well. This week is important, especially against Pittsburgh.”
GENERATING A RUSH
The Browns generated seven sacks on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo last Sunday and are looking for their first set of back-to-back games with at least six sacks since Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, 1988, when they had six each against the Philadelphia Eagles and at the Phoenix Cardinals.
“The guys that were in there cranked up some good rushes,” Shurmur said. “They threw the ball quite a bit and I think when you get more good players in the game and you get a rotation, then, it helps the rushes that the guys have. If you had to play four guys the whole game, they’d be pretty worn down. If you can get a rotation of seven or eight of them, they stay a little bit fresher. I would attribute it to that.”
RETURNING TO PLAY
Second-year Browns defensive back
Skrine suffered the concussion after a collision with Cowboys tight end Kevin Ogletree, who was also hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward along Cleveland’s sideline.
“I passed all my concussion tests, so I’m feeling better,” Skrine said after Friday’s practice. “I came in Monday, had to go through all the phases. It takes like three days, so I feel good.”The all new Browns Fan4Pack is on sale now! The all-inclusive game day package includes 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 Pepsi Products, 4 game programs and 1 parking pass for home games versus the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 9 or the Washington Redskins on Dec. 16. Click here to purchase today!