The Browns will be trying to win a second straight game for the first time in three years and avenge an embarrassing 2005 loss Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Browns for the first time since Christmas Eve last year.
In a game their fans will never forget, the Steelers whipped the Browns 41-0. It was one of the most lopsided losses in franchise history going back to 1950, Cleveland's first year in the NFL. By the third quarter more Steelers fans than Browns fans were in the stadium.
Both the Browns and Steelers are down this season, but the Browns know the Steelers' record is deceptive. They ranked higher offensively and defensively than the Patriots at the halfway point of the season, yet the Patriots were 6-2 and the Steelers were 2-6.
The difference is the Steelers were dead last in takeaway/giveaway at minus 11. Unfortunately for the Browns, forcing turnovers, particularly fumbles, is not their strong suit. Part of that can be attributed to the rash of injuries in the secondary. Cornerback Gary Baxter has missed most of the season with a pectoral injury and now has two torn patellar tendons. Leigh Bodden has missed four games with sprained ankles. Daylon McCutcheon was placed on injured reserve before the season started because of knee surgery.
The cornerbacks who have replaced Baxter, Bodden and McCutcheon have done well in coverage, but the interceptions and forced fumbles are not being produced.
"You have to make sure you have the guy wrapped up before somebody can go after the ball," middle linebacker Andra Davis said. "Our first propriety has to be to make the tackle."
Run defense is an ongoing problem for the Browns and it is linked to a lack of forced fumbles. The Browns ranked 29th in run defense before facing the Falcons. If they don't tackle well they aren't going to be going after the ball.
Adding Ted Washington at nose tackle and Willie McGinest at outside linebacker was supposed to cure the ills of last year. It has not. Rookie inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson has been an improvement over Ben Taylor, but he is not making dramatic plays. Jackson is second on the team with 67 tackles, but only two have been for negative yardage. Andra Davis has 77 tackles and only one for negative yardage.
"We're disappointed that the run defense hasn't been as good as we anticipated it being," Coach Romeo Crennel said. "We have to do a better job of being diligent about our leverage and our fits."
The Browns did hold Atlanta in check during a 17-13 upset victory and they had three takeaways. Brodney Pool and Sean Jones each intercepted a pass. Perry recovered a fumble by Michael Vick with 2:18 to play.
The Browns did not score a touchdown in the first quarter until 1:36 remained in the opening period Sunday in Atlanta. They scored four field goals in the opening quarter in the first eight games. Even more telling is the offense did not even drive into the red zone in the opening quarter until a long pass to Kellen Winslow gave the Browns a first-and-goal on the Falcons 6 to set up the Droughns touchdown on fourth down. Charlie Frye passed 19 yards to Braylon Edwards for the Browns other touchdown. Phil Dawson kicked a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for a 17-13 lead.