KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
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SERIES: 109th meeting, Cleveland leads the series 55-53, including an 0-2 record in the playoffs. The Steelers have won 11 of the past 12 games, including the past five games. Pittsburgh won the last time they met in Cleveland, 43-0, on Dec. 24. The series began in 1950. Steelers coach Bill Cowher is 7-3 in Cleveland, 17-5 overall against the Browns, where he started his coaching career.
2006 RANKINGS: Steelers: offense 5th (10th rush, 5th pass); defense 11th (10th rush, 16th pass). Browns: offense 29th (30th rush, 26th pass); defense 19th (30th rush, 6th pass)
PREDICTION: Steelers 27-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: This will be a litmus test for the Browns' revised blocking schemes designed to better protect QB Charlie Frye. He was dropped eight times in a 41-0 loss to Pittsburgh last December, and the Steelers will attempt to come after him again. Pittsburgh might be without CB Deshea Townsend and SS Troy Polamalu is coming off a concussion suffered Sunday, so the Steelers want to get to Frye before he can work the ball to playmakers WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow. Steelers RB Willie Parker is coming off a 213-yard effort, and will pound away against a Browns run defense allowing 143.6 yards per game. But with QB Ben Roethlisberger appearing to regain his form, the Steelers also will attack Cleveland's injury-ravaged secondary.
FAST FACTS: Steelers: Roethlisberger is on pace to throw for 3,830 yards, which would break Terry Bradshaw's single-season franchise record of 3,724 in 1979. Browns: Coach Romeo Crennel is 1-7 against the AFC North. ... Winslow leads all NFL tight ends with 56 receptions.
--LB James Harrison, who has missed the past five games with a high ankle sprain, practiced for the first time since the injury on Thursday and was upgraded to questionable. He's the top backup on the outside and one of the team's best special teams players.
--SS Troy Polamalu practiced for the second consecutive day but was still listed as questionable with a concussion that knocked him out of last Sunday's game in the first quarter.
--C Jeff Hartings went through a full practice for the first time after missing the past two games with a knee injury. He still is listed as questionable.
--CB Deshea Townsend did not practice for the second consecutive day and remains questionable with an ankle injury. It's likely that Bryant McFadden will start at right cornerback.
--TE Kellen Winslow needs three catches Sunday to set a team record for receptions in the first 10 games of the season. Winslow has 56 receptions; Ozzie Newsome had 58 in the first 10 games of the 1983 season.
--CB Leigh Bodden will miss his second game in a row with a sprained ankle. The Browns have done a good job all season covering up for missing corners, though, mainly thanks to the play of safeties Brian Russell, Sean Jones and Brodney Pool.
--WR Braylon Edwards drew the attention, but not the anger, of the Steelers when he said the Browns were coming after Pittsburgh on Sunday. Edwards has the chance to face a secondary that has been giving up a lot of yards, so if he is on his game, he could have some catches.
--QB Charlie Frye was listed as questionable on the injury report with a left wrist injury, but he practiced all week and it would be surprising if he does not play Sunday. The team does not believe the bruise/sprain will affect Frye during the game.
--C Hank Fraley will have his hands full with Pittsburgh NT Casey Hampton. The Browns signed LeCharles Bentley in the offseason specifically because of Hampton, but Bentley is out for the season with a torn left patellar tendon. Fraley probably will need help if the Browns are to get the running game going.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Steelers head to Cleveland by bus looking for their first victory on the road and knowing they have to win if they have any chance for a run at the playoffs.
"We're starting a new season," proclaimed Ben Roethlisberger, who's playing lately like a new quarterback. "We're trying to get our first win this week, and a lot of guys kind of have a rejuvenation this week, and we need to carry that over."
The Steelers have kept to a pattern, winning one and losing three, they know they must break. The loser of Sunday's game in Cleveland will hold sole possession of last place in the AFC North at 3-7.
Many of the Steelers laughed at the big talk coming out of the Browns locker room from players who keep referring to Pittsburgh's 41-0 victory on Christmas Eve in Cleveland last season as if it were Pearl Harbor.
The Steelers have won 11 of the past 12 games against Cleveland, including five straight.
"It's kind of the next home away from home, I guess," receiver Hines Ward said. "There's an ease as far as going up there and trying to start out and take the crowd out early and make plays on them."
Said linebacker Joey Porter, "I don't fear nobody over there on that team, so I don't care who they got talking or what they say, I've just never been afraid of Cleveland."
Linebacker Larry Foote mocked Cleveland wide receiver Braylon Edwards for saying the Browns were going to come after the Steelers because of that 41-0 score.
"I lost to Cleveland one time in five years," Foote said, "so us really coming down there ain't really scaring me."
For the second time this season, the Browns face a home game against a division rival without Reuben Droughns.
Droughns sprained a foot in the win over Atlanta, and he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. It's possible Droughns could play, but not likely.
A running back needs to plant and cut, and even a mild sprain could make that difficult.
Droughns missed the game against the Ravens earlier this season with a sprained shoulder.
Jason Wright replaced Droughns against Baltimore and gained just 31 yards on 15 carries. Wright is a functional back but not a great threat.
Though Droughns has not had a great season, he still brings something Wright does not. That is the ability to pick up tough yards and the blitz -- both essentials against a defense like Pittsburgh.
Coach Romeo Crennel said Droughns could play even if he missed practice all week, but the likelihood is that Droughns will not face the Steelers.