The Cleveland Browns will play their final game of the 2012 regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Browns have not ended a regular season on the road since 2008, when they lost, 31-0, at Pittsburgh on Dec. 28. It will be the second of back-to-back road games to end the season, something the team has not done since 2004, a year in which the Browns split the final two contests. After losing in Miami, they responded with a win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.
The Browns ended the regular season with at least two road games 31 times in their history, starting with the first four years of the franchise from 1946-49. In 1948, the Browns defeated the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dons, San Francisco 49ers and Brooklyn Dodgers in four straight road games to end the season.
The team is (39-28-2) in consecutive road games at the end of the regular season.
When the Browns hosted the Steelers back on Nov. 25, the defense led the way to a 20-14 Cleveland win over Pittsburgh. The Browns forced eight fumbles, five of which they were able to recover, and intercepted veteran quarterback Charlie Batch three times. Cleveland’s defense also limited the Steelers to 242 yards of total offense, including only 55 yards rushing between the running back combination of Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall. All four of the Steelers’ running backs fumbled against the Browns.
As the game unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:
Wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon leads the Browns with 766 yards and five touchdown catches on his 46 receptions this season.
Gordon is second among all NFL rookies with the five touchdown catches and 766 receiving yards. Gordon is tied for first with the most receptions of at least 20 yards (12) and fourth in receptions among all first-year NFL players. Gordon’s 766 yards and 46 catches are the most of any rookie taken in the Supplement Draft since it started in 1977.
With a touchdown Sunday, Gordon would be the first Browns rookie to have six receiving touchdowns in a season since Andre’ Davis in 2002. With one catch, Gordon will join wide receivers Kevin Johnson (1999) and Webster Slaughter (1986) and running back Eric Metcalf (1989) as the only Browns rookies to have a catch in all 16 games.
Dawson has converted 304 of 361 career field goal attempts with the Browns and ranks second in team history with 1,267 points. His 84.2 field-goal percentage is first all-time in team history and the seventh-best total among those NFL kickers with at least 100 career field goals. He has the highest percentage among those kickers who have made at least 300 field goals.
Dawson is 29 for 35 on field goal attempts and 29 for 31 on extra point tries in 25 games against the Steelers. The first two game-winning field goals of Dawson’s career came against the Steelers, a 39-yarder in Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, 1999 and a 19-yard attempt on Sept. 17, 2000.
Cribbs’ 12,120 combined kickoff and punt return yards rank sixth on the NFL’s career list.
His eight kickoffs for touchdowns are tied for an NFL record and he has added three more scores on punt returns. The combined 11 touchdowns are fifth all-time and with one more, Cribbs would equal Hall and Metcalf for third place. Cribbs is also three yards away from passing Dennis Northcutt’s mark for the most punt return yards in franchise history (2,149).
Since the start of the 2011 season, Cribbs has nine returns of at least 40 yards. Each of those returns led to Browns scores -- five touchdowns and four field goals.
In 15 games against the Steelers, Cribbs has totaled 182 yards on 14 catches, 148 yards on 21 carries, 1,063 yards on 42 kickoffs, including touchdowns of 92, 98 and 100 yards, and 216 yards on 20 punts. He reached career highs with seven catches for 91 receiving yards on Jan. 1, 2012. He gained 87 yards on eight rushing attempts on Dec. 10, 2009.
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. The Browns’ defensive captain leads the team with 114 total tackles. He has 61 solo tackles -- second-most on the team -- 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He has recovered two other fumbles and returned his first interception of the season for a touchdown.
Jackson has now registered a 100-tackle season five times in his career.
In five games against the Steelers, Haden has intercepted two passes, forced a pair of fumbles and recovered one fumble. His career-long 62-yard interception return came at Pittsburgh on Oct. 17, 2010.
Browns offensive linemen
Sheldon Brown. The 11-year NFL veteran has played in 175 consecutive regular-season games, a mark that ranks fifth among all active defensive players. He has caught at least one interception in each of his 11 NFL seasons.
Brown has 26 career interceptions and is tied for the fourth-longest active streak of consecutive seasons with an interception. Green Bay’s Charles Woodson has had an interception in 15 straight seasons, while Denver’s Champ Bailey (14) and Cincinnati’s Nate Clements (12) rank ahead of Brown and Baltimore’s Ed Reed (11).
Brown’s 146 pass breakups since 2002 are third, trailing only Atlanta’s Asante Samuel (160) and Bailey (153).
Trent Richardson. Through 15 games this season, Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 267 carries. He also leads the team with 51 receptions for 367 yards. He has scored the most points (72) by a rookie in the NFL and is tied for fourth in the league in scoring among non-kickers.
Earlier this month, Richardson broke Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jim Brown’s franchise rookie record for rushing touchdowns. His 12 overall touchdowns surpassed the mark co-held by Brown and Metcalf.
Richardson’s 1,317 yards of total offense and 950 yards rushing both rank third among first-year players, behind Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (1,766, 1,312) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (1,478, 1,413). He is third in the NFL in receptions by a rookie (51) and first downs (54).
With 100 yards rushing against the Steelers, Richardson would be the first Browns rookie ever to rush for 100 or more yards in four games during a single season.
With 50 yards rushing, Richardson would join quarterback Brandon Weeden as the first Browns rookies, and second tandem in NFL history, to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 3,000 in the same season.
Like Gordon, Richardson is one reception away from joining Johnson, Metcalf and Slaughter as the only rookies in team history with at least one catch in all 16 games.
Currently, Richardson is tied for or has sole possession of six team rookie records.
Brandon Weeden. Weeden has completed 297 of 517 attempts for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns against 17 interceptions through 15 starts this season. Weeden ranks first among all rookies in franchise history in wins (five), passing yards (3,385), and passing yards in a game (364 at Oakland on Dec. 2).
Weeden’s 69-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver
Earlier this year, Weeden joined Derek Anderson, Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe and Pro Football Hall of Famer, the late Otto Graham, as the only quarterbacks in team history to throw for 300 or more yards at least three times in a single season. Anderson (three in 2007) and Graham (three in 1950) each accomplished the feat once, while Kosar (three each in 1986 and 1987) reached the mark twice. Sipe tossed four 300-yard games in 1979, and again in 1983, and six in 1980.
If Weeden throws for 300 yards against the Steelers, he would tie Sipe as the only Browns quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards at least four times in a season. Also, he is one passing touchdown away from tying Tim Couch’s rookie record of 15, set in the 1999 season.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The Akron native and former Kent State University linebacker has registered 63 career sacks with the Steelers, which is the second-most in team history.
Harrison has registered 45 solo tackles and 60 total stops this season. He has five sacks for 24 lost yards and 15 quarterback pressures.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Due to injuries, Roethlisberger missed the first Browns-Steelers game of the season and was replaced in the starting lineup by Batch. In his career, Roethlisberger has compiled a 24-12 record in the month of December.
With one touchdown pass Sunday, Roethlisberger will have thrown for at least one score in every game of a season for the first time in his career.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace. With six catches against the Browns, Wallace would reach the 70-reception mark for the second straight year. He caught 72 passes in 2011.
Wallace needs 164 yards to reach 1,000 for the third straight year and would join Hines Ward as the only Pittsburgh receivers to record at least three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the second-longest streak in team history.
The Browns (5-10) come into Sunday’s game after a 34-12 loss to the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High last weekend. The Steelers enter the contest at 7-8 following a 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.
Norwood (Penn State), Pinkston (University of Pittsburgh), and Ventrone (Villanova) went to college in Pennsylvania.
Browns defensive end
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor began his college career at Penn State University.
Browns running backs coach Gary Brown is a native of Williamsport, Penn., and played at Penn State. He also coached at Williamsport High School, as well as Lycoming and Susquehanna universities.
Browns quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple held the same position with the Steelers from 2004-06. Browns linebackers coach Bill Davis was the Steelers’ defensive quality control coach from 1992-94.
Browns defensive line coach Dwaine Board was selected by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 1979 NFL Draft.
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham kicked for the Browns during training camp in 2010.
Tackle Mike Adams (Dublin/Coffman High School), defensive back Will Allen (Dayton/Huber Heights Wayne), fullback Will Johnson (Dayton/Centerville High School), linebacker James Harrison (Akron/Coventry) and Ben Roethlisberger (Lima/Findlay) are Ohio natives.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward, Adams and Allen (The Ohio State University), Harrison (Kent State), Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio) and Suisham (Bowling Green State University) went to college in Ohio.
Steelers assistant head coach/defensive coach John Mitchell started his coaching career with the Browns from 1991-93, where he mentored Pro Bowl defensive tackles Michael Dean Perry and Rob Burnett.
Linebackers coach Keith Butler held a similar position with the Browns from 1999-2002.
Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner is a native of Cleveland.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau started his Hall of Fame playing career with the Browns in 1959. A native of London, Ohio, LeBeau played his college football at Ohio State.
Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky (Youngstown) is an Ohio native, while offensive assistant Shaun Sarrett coached at Streetsboro High School in 2004 and played at Kent State.
Fans can watch Sunday’s game at 1 p.m. ET on local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV 19. Spero Dedes will provide the play-by-play, while Steve Beuerlein (color analysis) will join him on the call.
The game is also available along the PNC Bank Browns Radio Network with Jim Donovan (play-by-play), Doug Dieken (color) and Jamir Howerton (sideline reporter) on the call.
What to Watch For is brought to you by Arby’s -- Arby’s Value Menu starting at one dollar will have you coming back for more without emptying your wallet.