The Steelers want to get quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a rhythm early against the Browns defense, which ranks 26th in the league.
No longer in control of their destiny, the visiting Steelers look to do their part to reach the postseason by recording their 28th victory in 32 meetings with the woeful Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
As the 2009 Steelers prepared for their Week 17 game in Miami on January 3, 2010, the chances at a playoff berth were quite slim.
Yet, the Steelers insist they won't be thinking about what is going on in Orchard Park, N.Y., even though their season is depending on it.
No, it's not over yet; much like Clark Griswold after his famous rant about his cheapskate boss, I can have my happy ending, despite Pittsburgh's jellylike performance against the Ravens on Sunday, provided the Steelers take care of business at Cleveland this week, and Rex Ryan gets his revenge on the Jets for firing him.
Browns ILB Christian Kirksey: Cleveland had one sack, three quarterback hits and five tackles for loss in the first meeting. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin stressed the Steelers weren't anxious about what happens outside of Cleveland, but will they be able to keep their eyes off the out-of-town scoreboard? Johnny Manziel completed 13 of 32 passes for 136 yards with one interception, and added 108 yards in 11 attempts on the ground.
The Steelers are favored by 10 points against the Browns this week and the Over/Under (O/U) is sitting at 47 points.
"We have to focus on what we have to do", Roethlisberger said via Steelers.com. I am not sure who is going to play, who isn't going to play in the secondary. If the Jets win, the Steelers will miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons regardless of the outcome in Cleveland.
The Browns have scored multiple touchdowns in just two of their last seven games. He joins DB Rod Woodson, RB Jerome Bettis and WR Hines Ward as the only other players to win the team MVP three times. They need to get their passing game back on track and the easiest way to do that is to get Roethlisberger into the game early. Manziel threw for 372 yards and a touchdown in that game. If we don't, there is no point in looking around.
Pittsburgh is 7-3 SU when leading at the start of the fourth quarter this season. On average, the Steelers have allowed 95.9 return yards per game. This group was at its best the last time it faced the Steelers, accounting for 22 catches and 285 yards. Steelers are 27-6 vs. Browns since 1999.
Tomlin's choices reflect a more risk mindset that's taken off since Haley and the offense has evolved into one of the league's most dynamic behind Roethlisberger and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. They could have another big day against a unit that has key players injured and continues to struggle against good passing offenses.