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Game Preview: Browns-Steelers

Posted Nov 24, 2012

The Cleveland Browns play their final AFC North Division home game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cleveland Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson has high expectations for himself and the team.

Richardson ran for 95 yards on 28 carries and caught six passes for 49 yards in the team’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday afternoon. Despite good statistical numbers, Richardson said after the game that he felt like he left some yards on the field. He again said the same thing on Wednesday afternoon.

“Like I said, I do feel like it’s on me, but I can’t get down on myself and go through the whole week and have a bad game this Sunday,” Richardson said. “That game is over with. I beat up on myself after the game, said what I should have done and watched the film on the plane, ‘I could have done this and I know I could have made better decisions,’ but I’m not going to go the whole week like that because life, to me, is much more than football.

“I’ve got a family at home. I’ve got teammates around me that don’t want me down. I’m a leader on this team as far as my voice and as far as leading by example so I can’t be down and having my teammates looking at me like, ‘Wow, this is what a first round draft pick is supposed to be doing?’ No, it’s not. That’s not it.”

Richardson leads the Browns in rushing with 670 yards and five touchdowns on 180 carries and is also the team’s top receiver with 37 catches for 289 yards and a highlight-reel, 23-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 16.

Richardson said he feels like there is something to prove this Sunday when the Browns take on the NFL’s No. 1 ranked total defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“Especially playing against the number one defense, especially in this town playing against Pittsburgh, it is big,” Richardson said. “Watching film, they are the most put together defense I’ve ever seen in the league so far. Those guys there, they’re well disciplined and they love to stop the run. They’re going to put the big hit on you so for me, I’ve got to do everything I can to get what they give me.”

Richardson will run, and stay in on pass-protection, against a defense known for its zone blitzes under coordinator Dick LeBeau.

On the season, the Steelers have generated 18 sacks for 97 lost yards, intercepted five passes and recovered four of 13 fumbles from their opponents

“It is a good scheme,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “It keeps you on your toes from the standpoint of how you believe a defense should play and the things you expect to happen with a 3-4 front and some different things happen, guys rushing that may drop a lot of the time, guys dropping that may rush. I just think he’s done a great job of keeping up with the times. When you play a system consistently for the number of years he’s been there, it’s part of those guys and they haven’t had a lot of turnover.”

Quarterback Brandon Weeden added, “The best thing about this defense is they have good players. They’ve got guys that have been in the league for a long time. They’ve got guys that can tackle. They’ve got guys that are scheme-wise really, really good. He (Dick LeBeau) is a big zone blitz guy. They don’t give up many big plays. They try to keep everything in front and they do a great job with it. They’ve done it for a long time and I don’t really expect it to change when we play them.”

When the Browns allow Weeden enough time to throw the ball against Pittsburgh’s defense, the first-year quarterback will look to continue developing a rapport with wide receiver Greg Little, now in his second NFL season.

Little caught three passes for 53 yards, an average of 17.7 yards per reception, with a long catch of 22 yards in the loss at Dallas. He leads all Browns receivers with 30 catches, which he has turned into 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“I’m encouraged by him,” Childress said. “I think he’s playing steadier and steadier. Steady is all you want from a football player. If you play steady, the splash plays will come. You make the routine plays routinely, then, the really big plays end up coming. I appreciate that I know what standard I’m going to get from him when he gets on the football field.”

While the Browns’ offense focuses on attacking the league’s top-ranked defense, their defense will contend with some unfamiliar faces in the Steelers’ huddle.

Earlier this week, the Steelers lost quarterback Byron Leftwich to rib injuries after the veteran was inserted into the lineup for Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was injured in a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.

With their top two quarterbacks out of the lineup, veteran Charlie Batch will start. Batch is a 15-year veteran who has completed 863 of 1,534 career passes for 10,610 yards with 60 touchdowns against 48 interceptions.

One of Batch’s targets could be veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress, whom the Steelers signed Tuesday. The Steelers originally drafted him in 2000. Burress adds depth and experience to a wide receiver corps experiencing some injury troubles with Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) and Antonio Brown (ankle).

When the Steelers are not passing the football, they will rely on a three-headed rushing attack with Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall. Dwyer leads with team with 410 yards on 89 carries, while Redman has rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns on 85 attempts. Mendenhall has worked his way back from injury to rush for 107 yards on 30 carries.

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