As the Pittsburgh Steelers head north to face the Cleveland Browns, the team knows it will be in for a fight. More importantly, the team realizes that they need a victory to keep their path to the playoffs alive as they continue to be without a handful of starters.Charlie Batch will take the helm of the offense. For some fans, this is a move that they cried for last week, and now they will get their wish. Batch seems to be a perfect fit for this style of play, and should be able to move the ball through the air.
He could get a boost if the offensive line and running game show up to play again. Lost in the frustration of the divisional loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, is the fact that the running game performed well. While Rashard Mendenhall started and had his moments, especially as a receiver, Jonathan Dwyer was impressive, running with determination and power between the tackles. Unfortunately, Isaac Redman was lost early to a concussion, or he too could have added to the production. With all three prepared to take the field Sunday, the running game may be the biggest weapon for Batch.
The Steelers will also be armed with a new Red Zone target, as veteran Plaxico Burress will definitely see action in that area. For many fans, had Leftwich been able to target Burress with that third quarter fade pass against the Ravens instead of Mike Wallace, the Steelers may have picked up a victory. For Wallace, he is quickly alienating himself even more from fans with his spotty play in 2012, which has been plagued by drops, half-hearted effort, and the latest a key fumble, all items that fans do not see with elite wide receivers. If he is playing for a contract, now may be a great time to change his ways.
Defensively, the Steelers will be challenged by the Browns running game behind Trent Richardson. Last week, they did a great job against Ray Rice and should be able to make the Browns one-dimensional just as they did against the Ravens. For that to happen, the left side of the defense with LaMarr Woodley, Ziggy Hood or Cameron Heyward and possibly Al Woods will need to step up again. Hood (Back) appears to be ready to go after being injured against the Ravens, although, there is no guarantee that he will be available. If he cannot go, Heyward will get the start with Woods playing big minutes as the back up at both defensive end positions.
In the secondary, Keenan Lewis continues to step up and develop into one of the better cornerbacks in the AFC North. With Ike Taylor locked up on the oppositions best receiver, Lewis is having a solid season, continually making plays when challenged. Of course, they could use a few more interceptions (and turnovers as a whole), but they have definitely turned a corner from where they were at in the early portion of the season.
The Steelers will also need to sure up their coverage units, as their punt return unit (along with the subpar effort from Wallace) cost the team a victory against the Ravens. Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs already has a history against the Steelers and the team should pay extra attention to that facet in what should be another close game.
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