The Cleveland Browns are looking for the sweep when they welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
The Browns have defeated both the Cincinnati Bengals, 17-6, on Sept. 29, and Baltimore Ravens, 24-18, on Nov. 3, at home, and a win over the Steelers will give them a sweep of the AFC North Division games in Cleveland.
But standing in their way is a Steelers team that has posted a 4-2 record in the six weeks since their bye-week break. And the Browns are expecting the 4-6 Steelers to carry a chip on their shoulders into Cleveland.
“It’s Steelers Week,” linebacker
The Steelers come to Cleveland on the heels of a 37-27 come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Lions, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the way in the win.
Roethlisberger completed 29 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns against no interceptions. On the season, he has completed 247 of 383 attempts (64.5 percent) for 2,901 yards and 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions despite being sacked 36 times for 242 yards.
“He’s had a great career over there,” defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson said of Roethlisberger. “He’s won two Super Bowls, and they’ve always orchestrated a great team over there, starting with great defense, and Big Ben’s had a lot to do with the success in the past. As of late, they’ve been getting back on track, so we know we’re going to have our hands full on Sunday.”
In addition to having their hands full, the Browns are spending much practice time trying to make Roethlisberger feel that same way come Sunday.
When they beat a Roethlisberger-led Steelers team in 2009, the Browns registered eight sacks in the victory. Although he was out of last year’s meeting in Cleveland because of an injury, the Browns got to his backup quarterback, Charlie Batch, and forced eight turnovers in the process.
“We mix things up,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “We rush four, we rush three sometimes, we rush two sometimes and we rush the whole house. So, we won’t change anything.
“We just have to understand it’s just not the Cleveland Browns, it’s every, single team in this league has a problem getting this guy on the ground because he’s so big, so strong, so athletic, and most of his big plays come after contact. It’s just something you’re conscious of and aware of, but most guys are, I think, shocked by this guy’s strength and athletic ability.”
Offensively, the Browns are preparing for a challenge from a Steelers defense that has forced six interceptions, registered 18 sacks and forced 11 fumbles.
“They went through a period where they were giving up some big plays,” Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “They haven’t given up as many big plays and they’re playing better defense. It’s a lot of the same cast of characters, and they’re awfully good. They’re extremely well coached. They always have been. If you’re going to make plays on them, you have to go beat them and you have to execute.
“When they come after you and they pressure you, they can really pressure the quarterback. They’re a multiple defense. They still get a lot of hits on the quarterback. They played Detroit and they banged him (quarterback Matthew Stafford) up pretty good last week. He was 19-of-47, so they harassed him pretty good.”
For Turner, and Browns quarterback
“He’s a tremendous player,” Campbell said. “He’s going to be a Hall of Fame safety one day. He does a lot of things. When he plays safety, he plays it differently than any other guy in the league. He and Ed Reed are two of the guys in the NFL that can roam the field and be able to do the things that they do. I think a lot of that is experience, them knowing where to be and just making the plays. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Turner added, “He just keeps going. I know he missed some time last year, but I think everyone who plays against him knows that that it starts with him. They’re solid all the way across. Obviously, they expect to get (linebacker LaMarr) Woodley back and he’s a lot to handle. I think they’re just a very solid, very talented defense.”