KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
PREDICTION: Steelers 31-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Ben Roethlisberger makes his season debut for the Steelers, who are banking on a more threatening passing attack to make life easier for RB Rashard Mendenhall (4.6 yards per carry). But Pittsburgh's main priority is simply protecting the ball with the Browns expected to start rookie QB Colt McCoy due to ankle injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Cleveland will try to protect McCoy with the ground game, but RB Peyton Hillis continues to be slowed by a quadriceps injury. McCoy will face relentless blitzing from the Steelers; how he handles the pressure will determine if the Browns are competitive.
FAST FACTS: Hillis is fifth player in NFL history to score a touchdown in each of his first five games with a new team. ... Steelers WR Hines Ward has caught a pass in 182 consecutive games, one shy of tying for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
After being stymied in their run offense last week by the Falcons, the Browns would like to get back to a ground attack Sunday when they face the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Last Dec. 10, the Browns rushed for 171 yards when they beat the Steelers, 13-6. Josh Cribbs carried eight times for 87 yards. Chris Jennings carried 20 times for 73 yards and scored the only touchdown.
"The Steelers have seven guys up front that really know how to play the scheme," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "They know how to play their gap. They're very fundamentally sound.
"They're not going to beat themselves. We're an offense built on running the ball. We're not always going to run the ball more than we pass the ball, but for us to win we need to be efficient in the running game. We need to do well on first and second down so we're not in hard third-down situations where we have to a make a play downfield."
Top running back Peyton Hillis missed practice again Thursday because of a pulled quadriceps. Hillis was injured in practice last Thursday and aggravated his injury last Sunday while rushing for 28 yards on 10 carries. He did not come close to the success he had against the Ravens and Bengals when he rushed for 144 yards and 102 yards respectively. Part of that was the injury, part was the way the Falcons played defense and part was the way they missed blocking assignments.
Despite the missed practices, Mangini is confident Hillis will play Sunday.
"Mike is a guy that we had looked at and thought would be a good fit when we were looking at free agents in the offseason," coach Eric Mangini said. "When he became available and with Peyton's expanding role and the type of plays that we run with him this was more of a fit for us than Jerome."
Bell is a power back, as is the 241-pound Hillis. Bell, 6-0, 225 pounds, wanted to wait until he completed practice Thursday (the media time with players is before practice) to decide whether he can contribute in Pittsburgh.
"I played with Peyton in Denver," Bell said before practice. "I know the offensive line does a good job up front. This is going to be a good fit for me.
"Peyton and I do the same thing in running physically, but we have two different styles. I can't explain it. It's just something you have to catch with your eye."
Bell, signed by the Eagles as a restricted free agent when New Orleans elected not to match an offer sheet, carried only 16 times for 28 yards with Philadelphia this season.
Pittsburgh's defense has had to live for two weeks with that final series against Baltimore, and it's not been fun. They cannot wait to get back on the field and prove they are not the defense that gave up five fourth-quarter leads in losses last season. Not again.
"You never like people scoring on you, especially when they did it as quickly as they did with the game on the line," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Yeah, we're anxious to get back after a long week."
The Steelers carry a 3-1 record into their game Sunday against Cleveland at Heinz Field, which has become Ben Roethlisberger's homecoming game. Yet, the Steelers would have been 4-0 even without their starting quarterback had their defense stopped Baltimore in the final minute of their past game, Oct. 3 at home.
Baltimore took over at its 40 with 1:08 left in the game, no timeouts and the Ravens trailing 14-10. Joe Flacco threw four straight completions that covered the 40 yards for the winning touchdown with 32 seconds left.
"It's not good," defensive end Aaron Smith said of the lingering feeling from the way they lost that game. "It's kind of a disappointing and a letdown."
They are eager to get back after two weeks and show they can dominate an offense again and the pickings look easy this week. The Browns lost their top two quarterbacks and it appears rookie Colt McCoy will make his first NFL start -- at Heinz Field against the NFL's fourth-ranked defense.
"He's a quarterback in the NFL," Steelers pass-rushing linebacker James Harrison said sternly. "That means he has the ability to do it. We're not lightening up about anything."
--The Browns sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times when they beat the Steelers in December. They got to him three times in Cleveland when the Steelers won, 27-14, but Roethlisberger still threw two touchdown passes and had a passer rating of 113.6.
--The victory over the Steelers occurred in the 13th game. It took until then for the Browns to score a rushing touchdown by a non-quarterback. Running back Chris Jennings scored it on a 10-yard run. He is no longer on the roster.
--Josh Cribbs has had success as a kick returner against the Steelers. In the victory last year he returned one kick 55 yards. Even in the loss he returned three kicks 102 yards, an average of 34 yards a return.
In 2007, Cribbs returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in Pittsburgh while tight-roping down the right sideline. The TD gave the Browns a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, but they still lost because Roethlisberger tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to retake the lead.
--Phil Dawson has kicked 12 game-winning field goals in his 12-year career. Two of them were against the Steelers. He kicked a 39-yarder as time expired in the 1999 game in Three Rivers Stadium to give the Browns a 16-15 victory. The next season he kicked a 19-yarder with 2:45 left for a 23-20 victory.
Chris Palmer was the Browns' head coach in those two games. Palmer was fired after two seasons, but his .500 record is the best of any Browns coach in the expansion era over at least two seasons. Eric Mangini is 1-1 and will be facing the Steelers for the third time on Sunday.
--The Browns' only playoff game of the expansion era was played in Heinz Field. Kelly Holcomb completed 26 of 43 passes for 429 yards on Jan. 5, 2003, in a game the Browns lost, 36-33.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Rushing touchdowns against the Browns this season in five games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have total confidence if that's the choice. I think the guy will come in and do a great job. He's been in the system for a while now. He understands what we're trying to get done." -- LB David Bowens on the possibility of rookie quarterback Colt McCoy starting against the Steelers.
--QB Seneca Wallace is wearing a walking boot on his right foot. He did not practice Thursday.
--QB Jake Delhomme has a sprained ankle and did not practice.
--DL Shaun Rogers did not practice. He has a sore elbow this week. He has missed practice in past weeks with hip and ankle problems.
--DL Kenyon Coleman (knee) was limited in practice Thursday. He didn't practice on Wednesday.
--TE Robert Royal missed practice Thursday because of a shoulder injury.
--WR Emmanuel Sanders will dress for his first game since the opener, coordinator Bruce Arians said. Sanders, a rookie, will return kickoffs.
--WR Antonio Brown will not dress for Sunday's game, the first time he will not be active since the opener. The rookie has returned kickoffs and some punts and has an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, against Tennessee.
--PK Jeff Reed missed his last two field-goal tries, both against Baltimore in a three-point loss. It's only the second time he's gone 0-for-2 in his career; the other was in a loss last season in Chicago.
--WR Hines Ward will move out of a tie with Jerome Bettis and into sole possession of second place on the Steelers' career TD list with one score. Each has 80 TDs.
--QB Byron Leftwich has received a final, clean bill of health from his sprained MCL in his left knee. He will, however, wear a brace the rest of the season. He said neither he nor Charlie Batch has been informed as of Thursday who will be No. 2 behind Roethlisberger on Sunday. Both have shared snaps with the scout team the past two weeks.