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Steelers @ Browns

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By JORDAN GARRETSON

STATS Writer
(AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense looks improved since nearly squandering a huge lead in its opener against the Cleveland Browns, though the unit has taken advantage of matchups against lackluster offenses.

 

Sunday should provide a much better barometer of Pittsburgh's progress as it visits Cleveland and the league's fourth-ranked rushing attack.

 

The Steelers (3-2) claimed a 30-27 home win over Cleveland in Week 1, their fourth straight and 20th in 22 meetings between the teams. They raced to a 27-3 halftime lead but surrendered 288 total yards in the second half - including 129 rushing on 20 carries - and needed a Shaun Suisham 41-yard field goal as time expired to secure the victory.

 

Pittsburgh was gashed again for 157 rushing yards in a loss at Baltimore the next week. The Steelers have since held three opponents to 161 yards on 45 carries, most recently limiting Jacksonville to 56 in Sunday's 17-9 win.

 

However, the Panthers, Buccaneers and Jaguars rank 30th, 24th and 31st, respectively, in the league in rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Browns (2-2) are averaging 143.3 yards - their most since 1978.

 

Cleveland's 191 rushing yards in the first meeting marked its most in the series since it had 217 in a 26-24 home loss on Nov. 19, 1972. Terrance West was the first Brown to run for 100 yards against the Steelers since William Green in 2003.

 

Ben Tate, who left the Week 1 matchup with a knee injury, returned Sunday to run for a career-high 123 yards on 22 carries in a 29-28 win at Tennessee.

 

"They have a running game now," said linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who leads Pittsburgh with 29 tackles. "That's the change for us. As we played them before they never really got a 100 yards rushing on us. So now that they did that, that's the game changer so we have to really be on our Ps and Qs."

 

The Browns (2-2) overcame a 25-point deficit against the Titans for the largest road comeback in NFL history.

 

"We showed the mental toughness we've been talking about," coach Mike Pettine said.

 

Cleveland could easily be 4-0 - its two losses are by a combined five points - but it could also be 0-4 since its two victories are by three points.

 

"We prefer not to have that much heaped on us and dig that back of a hole," Pettine said regarding his team's slow starts. "But at the same time I really think it did speak to the character of the men that were in the room, coaches and players."

 

The Browns are 5-2 when starting Brian Hoyer, who has thrown for six TDs with only one interception. The sixth-year pro's 103.8 second-half passer rating ranks seventh in the NFL.

 

"Maybe you get a feeling for it throughout your career," said Hoyer, "But things seem to slow down a little bit in that situation when for some other people they speed up."

 

Pittsburgh owns an impressive ground game of its own with Le'Veon Bell's 460 yards leading the AFC. Bell has averaged 130.3 scrimmage yards in three meetings versus the Browns.

 

Ben Roethlisberger's 18-1 record against Cleveland is the best by any quarterback against one opponent in at least 15 starts since 1970. He owns a 101.5 passer rating while winning the last eight.

 

While Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to 404.0 yards per game - fourth in the NFL - they need to improve near the end zone. Pittsburgh is 18th with 22.4 points per game and has scored a touchdown on seven of its 16 red-zone possessions.

 

The Steelers came away with one touchdown on four chances inside the 20 against Jacksonville.

 

"We just need to continue to work, correct and rectify it and make sure it's a strength for us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I know when we are playing well we are putting points on the board with seven."

 

Antonio Brown leads the conference with 511 receiving yards and could be primed for a big day with Pettine "cautiously optimistic" top cornerback Joe Haden can play. Haden, who was third in the NFL last season with 20 passes defensed, suffered a hip injury against the Titans - though he didn't miss a snap.

 

Brown's streak of 21 games with at least five receptions and 50-plus yards is the longest in league history.

 

Source: Hosted.Stats.com

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Definitely gonna be a tough game for the Steelers. The Browns have been incredibly resilient throughout their games this season, and no lead is safe against Hoyer the Destroyer. However... the Steelers should take the Browns.

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I don't feel sad. I feel some like...opposite emotion. Don't know what to call it.

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@BoMarchionte

 

#MichaelMyers photos and theme music to movie Halloween has been playing entire game in Cleveland #NFL

 

:rock:

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The Steelers are bad. I really don't understand why this team is performing so bad.

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The Steelers are bad. I really don't understand why this team is performing so bad.

 

JFS (Jeff Fisher Syndrome)

 

Too many of the same faces, same philosophies. There's no more diagnostic work for opposing teams. They know what Pittsburgh does and can game plan it without worrying about too many wrinkles.

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