CLEVELAND - The Browns return home this week to face a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers squad at Cleveland Browns Stadium .
The Steelers own a 62 to 56 advantage in the all-time regular season series, including wins in each of the last four meetings. The Browns hold a 35-24 edge at home, but will be looking for their first win over the Steelers since 2009.
The Steelers will operate under third-string quarterback Charlie Batch with former St. Ignatius star Brian Hoyer, who was just signed this week as his backup.
The Steelers bring in the NFL's number one overall defense and will have their sights set on Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson, who will see the black and gold for the first time. Richardson said the Steelers are the most complete defense he has faced all season.
Head Coach Pat Shurmur agrees.
"The last five weeks, they're number one for a reason. Their scheme is recognizable. You know where their guys are. They pressure. They are fast. They are explosive. When we write down the guys you've got to control, all four linebackers show up. They know their scheme extremely well. They've got lots of veterans. I might be off by a year or two, but I was just counting up the experience in the secondary, and I think it came to like 34 years. They're veteran guys, they know their scheme well and they're good players. It's no mystery to me that they are ranked highly."
The Browns defense is coming off a seven-sack performance against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys, and hope to continue that roll against the Steelers. The Browns defense ranks 23rd in total yards per game (374.1) and hope to force Batch to make plays to try and beat them.
Shurmur has cautioned his team about thinking they are on "easy street" with Batch.
"We know in general when we're playing the Steelers we're not to use your words, ‘easy street.' This is going to be a battle. I've seen it before. I know it's the case. Veteran quarterbacks that have been in the league a long time find a way to come in and be very efficient. He's a veteran player amongst a very veteran team. That's what we're anticipating. There's enough previous film on Charlie where you can see how he functions. We've got to try to piece it together with how they play offense now, which is a little bit different. You basically get ready to play the Steelers, and just know that they've got a veteran leader behind center."
The Browns cannot be afraid to throw the football on the Steelers defense, despite they face the ranked number one against the pass allowing 169.3 yards per game. Weeden was solid last week against the Cowboys on the road, completing 20 of 35 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Browns will go into this game as healthy as they have been all year. Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin anchor the run defense up front, and Joe Haden practiced all week and expects to return along with Buster Skrine on Sunday.
The Steelers will be without big play wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Steelers went out this week and signed former Steelers wide out Plaxico Burris. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape Burris will be in after sitting out unsigned since he was let go by the Jets.
The Browns are not the same team that has lost four straight games to the Steelers and Pittsburgh is well aware of that. Coming off a division loss last week to Baltimore, the Steelers are in danger of falling farther behind with a loss in Cleveland and they know it.
Overlook the Browns and the season could be over. This will be a low scoring football game on Sunday. With low temperatures, the Browns will rely on pounding the football with Richardson and hounding Batch.
They say a rivalry only happens when both teams win on a regular basis, I think it's time the Browns made this series a rivalry once again.