KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian; DirecTV, 712
SERIES: 106th meeting. The Browns lead the series, 55-50, with the Steelers posting a 41-24 record since the 1970 merger. Bill Cowher, who began his coaching career with the Browns, is 14-5 against them. The only team he has beaten more is Cincinnati.
2004 RANKINGS: Steelers: offense 13th (1st rush, 26th pass); defense 2nd (1st rush, 6th pass). Browns: offense 24th (14th rush, 25th pass); defense 16th (9th rush, 22nd pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers enter with the league's No. 1 running game and top-ranked run defense. But RB Deuce Staley and FB Dan Kreider are questionable, which could be a big blow to their running game and put increased pressure on rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger to produce through the air. The less they are able to run offensively, the more the Steelers defense will be on the field after facing just 15 combined running plays the past two weeks. Cleveland needs to attack the middle, where Steelers NT Chris Hope has yet to be tested in replacing injured Casey Hampton. QB Jeff Garcia is showing increased comfort in the Browns' offense and his ability to avoid the rush and make plays downfield will tax Pittsburgh's secondary.
FAST FACTS: Steelers: RB Jerome Bettis needs 109 yards to pass Tony Dorsett (12,739) for fifth-place all-time. ... Roethlisberger can become the first quarterback since the 1970 merger to begin his career 7-0 with a victory. ... Coach Bill Cowher is 14-5 against Cleveland. Browns: K Phil Dawson has converted 26 consecutive field-goal attempts. ... Lead the series 55-50.
- C Jeff Hartings resumed practice on and will
start against Cleveland on Sunday. Hartings routinely takes off on Wednesday
to rest his knees.
- DE Travis Kirschke (back) practiced on
Thursday and will play against the Browns.
- RB Dante Brown, who is on the practice
squad, could be added to the 53-man roster for Sunday's game, coach Bill
Cowher said. Brown was on their roster last season but did not have a carry.
- QB Ben Roethlisberger is 6-for-6 on the
field and off. He won his sixth AFC rookie of the week award, one after each
- TE Matt Cushing will start at fullback on Sunday if Dan Kreider cannot play. Cushing has been Kreider's backup the past two seasons.
- WR Antonio Bryant will start if Andre Davis
does not make a miraculous recovery. Davis is listed as doubtful with
sprained right big toe.
- WR Andre King is doubtful with a sprained
ankle. The injuries to Davis and King leave the Browns thin at wide
- DB Michael Lehan is replacing Leigh Bodden
as the left gunner on punt coverage. Bodden is the team leader with 18
special teams tackles, but he was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a
torn pectoral muscle.
- P Derrick Frost punted 25 times Thursday
with no problems. He is playing on a sprained ankle and knee in his left
- OL Joaquin Gonzalez has been picked to replace Kelvin Garmon at RG. Gonzalez is normally a tackle, but guards Melvin Fowler and Paul Zukauskas have not demonstrated they can fill in for Garmon. Garmon was placed on IR Tuesday with torn ligaments in his right knee.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Coach Bill Cowher said the Steelers will wait until Friday, Saturday or even Sunday morning before deciding what to do in their banged up backfield for Sunday's game in Cleveland.
The Steelers, boasting the top-ranked running game in the league, have only two healthy backs and one of those has three carries in his career, rookie Willie Parker. Jerome Bettis, listed as probable, practiced all week with a calf injury and probably will make his second straight start.
Duce Staley, whose 707 yards rushing leads the Steelers, did not practice again on Thursday and remains questionable with a hamstring injury. So does starting fullback Dan Kreider, who also has not practiced this week.
It appears that third-down back Verron Haynes, listed as doubtful with turf toe, will not play. He too has not practiced all week. Parker most likely will replace him on passing downs.
Browns defensive end Gerard Warren says the best way to stop Steelers red-hot quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is with intimidation by 'going across his head.'
"Kill the head and the body's dead," Warren, a defensive tackle, said. "Kill the head and the body's dead!"
Warren demonstrated by smashing his left forearm into the palm of his right hand. When told he could be fined $50,000 if he intentionally hits Roethlisberger with a forearm he said he would accept the fine.
"It would be well worth it going across a quarterback's head," he said. They're already over-protected in this league.
"He's a good kid. I've been watching him on film. He makes good reads and he has good releases getting the ball out when receivers are just getting into their break. It makes it tough covering them."
The Browns put very little pressure on Roethlisberger when the Browns and Steelers met Oct. 10 in Pittsburgh. He completed 16 of 21 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown pass. He threw one interception. Warren had a pulled pectoral muscle and did not play in the game.
Roethlisberger has won six straight games. If the Steelers win Sunday he will be the first rookie quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to start his career 7-0.
Asked again about a forearm to Roethlisberger's head, Warren said hitting Roethlisberger in the throat might work better. The Browns had no sacks and two quarterback hits on Roethlisberger.
"He has burned and torched every team he has played," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "We didn't get much opportunity to pressure him (the first time). We didn't play very good on first down. We learned from our sins of the first time by losing containment and not staying in coverage. We have to make sure he stays in the pocket."