BEREA — Despite playing against the Steelers third-string quarterback and one of their best defenders, the Browns might have their hands full trying to score points on their own Sunday.
With a 6-4 record, the Steelers are currently ranked first in the NFL in defense. They are No. 1 against the pass and No. 4 versus the run. They average giving up 19 points a game, which is fifth-best in the NFL.
The Steelers have played the last several weeks without safety Troy Polamalu. He has been out with a calf injury and was doubtful late in the week.
“They’re a very fast defense,” Pat Shurmur said. “The way they pressure you is the challenge. We have plenty of film on them but the way they bring pressure is a challenge.”
Meanwhile, the Steelers are 17th offensively (17th rush, 13th pass). The Browns are 27th overall on offense (27th rush, 19th pass) and 23rd overall on defense (24th rush, 22nd pass).
One of the reasons the Steelers have such a good defense year in and year out is defensive coordinator Dick LaBeau. At the age of 75, he’s still one of the best coaches in the NFL.
“He’s doing it at a high level,” Shurmur said. “I have a great deal of respect for him. I’ve got to hear some the stories about him.”
Shurmur said he’s hoping to still be coaching at the age of 75.
“Although I don’t know Dick LaBeau that well, I hope I’m coaching at that age,” he said. “For me, this is a profession, but it’s also a hobby.”
Dick Jauron played for LaBeau with the Bengals and considers him a good friend. However, he says they don’t talk a lot about football when they’re together.
“We don’t talk a lot of football, we’re in the same division. “
Brad Childress said one of the reasons for LaBeau’s success is consistency.
“He’s stayed up with the times,” Childress said. “Offenses change, but he has kept up with the 3-4. The zone blitz has evolved and he’s had good players and it is a good scheme. It makes you stay on your toes and I think he’s done a great job of keeping up with the times.”
Rivalry Week: For the state of Ohio this week has a couple of big rivalry games. The Ohio State Buckeyes take on Michigan on Saturday and then the Browns host the Steelers on Sunday.
New Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam was a minority owner of the Steelers the previous four years before buying the Browns and this is his first game against his former team.
“I told the players this,” Shurmur said. “All the games count as one, but there’s more emotion involved with this game. I don’t want to speak for Jimmy but I would imagine there is.”
Shurmur said he learned from last year the intensity of the games with the Steelers.
“I heard from people in the community, neighbors, I know how big a game it is,” he said.
Shurmur was asked if it is a true rivalry since it has been so lopsided in favor of the Steelers.
“I’m 0-2 against them, that’s what I’m going on,” Shurmur said. “It is a rivalry. We’re in close proximity.”
Shurmur was asked what a win over the Steelers would do for his team.
“It would be our third victory and it’s a division game,” he said. “It’s at home and as we move to our last five games, it would be something to build on.”
Skrine Practices: The Browns are hopeful that at least two of their defensive backs are able to play against the Steelers. DB Joe Haden (oblique) has practiced all week and DB Buster Skrine (head) returned on Thursday. DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and DB Ray Ventrone (calf/hand) were doubtful as of Friday. Haden and Skrine were listed as questionable. Although, Patterson was seen working with trainers outside, as was WR Jordan Norwood, who is on injured reserve, but designated to return.
For the Steelers, S Troy Polamalu (calf) and QBs Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) and Byron Leftwich (ribs) were doubtful.