Just when you think it can’t get any worse for the Steelers, who are coming off a hard fought loss to division rival Ravens, they have to travel to the Dawg Pound and take on the Cleveland Browns with their third string quarterback at the helm. Yes, Charlie Batch makes his long awaited start for the Steelers in a divisional game in the AFC North on Sunday afternoon.
The Browns are licking their chops at this match up, and are reminiscing all the times that they Steelers have gotten to beat on them, with their laundry list of D level quarterbacks and not being able to move the ball. This year, they bring rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and superstar in the making Trent Richardson to the party.
Pittsburgh has won 22 of 24 against the Browns and outscored them 96-31 during a four-game winning streak in the series, with Cleveland managing two touchdowns in those contests. The Steelers have taken two straight and 13 of 15 in Cleveland. Charlie Batch has also been pretty good as well in limited play this decade as starter. He was an economical 15 of 22 for 208 yards in a 27-0 win over St. Louis in his last start Dec. 24.
Batch was 13 of 19 for 150 yards and ran for a score in his only previous start versus Cleveland, a 34-21 Pittsburgh home win Nov. 13, 2005.
Batch will have a new weapon to use this weekend, as the Steelers have signed veteran Plaxico Burress, who will make his return to the black and gold this weekend. All jokes aside, Plaxico is a machine in the red zone catching 8 touchdowns a year ago with the Jets, and will look to extend to his resume.
Pittsburgh still boasts one of the top defenses in the league, ranking a top in yards per game and top 5 in points allowed. They will need to continue the trend against the young Browns, who will be hungry to make a statement and take advantage of the hand the Steelers have been dealt.
Trent Richardson has been a wrecking ball this year, rushing for 678 yards and adding another 270 in the passing game. He will need to be the beast he has been if the Browns want to win this game. Unfortunately, the Browns have continued to find ways to lose this year. Most notably, they had Dallas on the ropes a week ago, before sucumming to poor coverage and allowing the Cowboys to get into field goal range and kicker Dan Bailey applied the dagger.
The Browns will get a boost to their secondary as Pro Bowler Joe Haden will be back for them. He will be out to make Mike Wallace’s day miserable as he has a nice combination of speed and size to match up with the fellow Pro Bowler.
The key for the Steelers is to move the ball on the ground, as they have done a nice job this year ranking in the top 10 in football averaging slightly over 100 a game. Their three headed monster of Mendenhall/Dwyer/Redman will be in full force again this Sunday. If the running game can take the pressure off of Batch, and get into 3rd and manageable situations, then the Steelers will pull out the win.
So what happens? This is such an over reaction game in the public’s eyes. Yes, Batch isn’t that great and they don’t have anyone else that knows the offense behind him. But the Steelers are one of the best all around teams in football, and will play hard with their backs against the wall. I fully expect them to come out and shut the Browns down on the road, which is a tough place to play.
I like the Steelers to win this game out right on the road, and to start to get healthy heading into the second match up with the Ravens.
This won’t be much of a game for fantasy owners, but start the defenses and Trent Richardson – everyone else has limited to no value.