BEREA - You hear the word balance being thrown around quite a bit in NFL circles.
The Steelers are balanced.
The Browns are not—at least for now.
Currently, the Browns are doing well on offense as they are ranked fourth in the NFL, overall, in total offense. However, they are the worst team in the NFL on defense, giving up 411.8 yards a game.
Contrast that to the Steelers who are eighth overall, in offense and first, overall, in defense. What brings them down to eighth is the fact that the Steelers passing game is ranked 19th, but Ben Roethlisberger threw for five touchdowns on Monday night against the Ravens. The Steelers are second in the league in rushing as they average 150.5 yards a game.
"The Steelers are a good football team in all phases," Romeo Crennel said. "We are going to have to probably play our best game of the year.
"They are definitely one of the best teams in the AFC, if not the NFL."
Defensively, the Browns are going to have to stop Willie Parker and gang running the ball. Parker had 109 yards in the first meeting and all totaled the Steelers rushed for 206 yards.
The Browns gave up four touchdown passes to Roethlisberger, even though he threw for just 161 yards.
"We have to execute and play well," Orpheus Roye said. "We need to get some pressure (on the quarterback) and it starts this week."
Shaun Smith echoed Roye's comments.
"We want to cause pressure and try to cause them to turn the ball over," he said.
Offensively, the Steelers are known for their zone blitz package as they send players from everywhere. In the first meeting with the Browns, the Steelers had six sacks, five on Charlie Frye and one on Derek Anderson.
"They come from a lot of different places," Crennel said. "They bring them from everywhere. Sometimes, it's two inside linebackers, sometimes it's two outside linebackers and sometimes it's a linebacker and a defensive back. They're all good players, as well."
James Farrior says that Anderson has been able to beat the rush since taking over.
"(Anderson) does have a quick release and gets rid of the ball quicker," Farrior said on the weekly conference call.
Hank Fraley thinks the Browns are ready for the blitz this time around.
"They came after us in the opening game," Fraley said. "We'll look at the film and our schemes and figure it out."
Ryan Tucker said if the Browns pass protect like they did against the Seahawks they'll be fine.
"We just have to rely on the scheme and execute the play called," he said. "If we can carry over what we did last week, we'll be alright."
Anderson is confident the Browns will be able to move the ball.
"They have a good defense," he said. "We've progressed in a lot of areas. We have to do a lot of film study and anticipate when the blitz is coming."
Farrior sees a completely different offense in the Browns now.
"They look very explosive now," he said. "They have a lot of deep balls and (Braylon) Edwards, (Joe) Jurevicius and (Kellen) Winslow look good.
"Anderson is doing a great job of getting them the ball."
Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin agrees.
"Schematically, I don't think they're that much different," Tomlin said in the conference call. "But Anderson has done a good job of getting the ball to the big play guys and that's why they're winning."
Statistically, Sunday's game with the Steelers is a major mismatch.
The Steelers are the No. 1 passing defense, with the Browns being the 32nd passing defense. The Steelers are tops in the NFL in points allowed at 12.3, while the Browns are 30th at 29.1.
In recent weeks, the Browns have been able to win by outscoring their opponents. The Browns are averaging 28.4 points per game (4th) to the Steelers 27.8 (5th).
With the Browns defense having trouble, the wild card for the Browns might be their special teams. Browns fans remember the return game being a big factor when Eric Metcalf returned two punts for touchdowns late in a game to beat the Steelers.
"We didn't do our best last week," Joshua Cribbs said. "So we're looking to make things happen this week.
"Special teams win ball games," he said. "So many yards can be had or given up on special teams."
As the Browns prepare for their biggest game of the season so far, Shaun Smith says they're ready.
"We're not intimidated by anybody."
What Rivalry?: The Browns and Steelers haven't had much of a rivalry in recent years as the Browns have won just three times in the 17 games the two teams have played against each other since the team returned in 1999.
The last time the Browns won was in Oct. 2003 behind QB Tim Couch. Since then, the Steelers have won each game. Last year, Steelers LB James Farrior said there hasn't been much of a rivalry in recent years. He was asked during the conference call about that comment.
"They have to start picking it up or it's not a rivalry," he said.
Bentley Status: OL LeCharles Bentley will be on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the remainder of the season, but Crennel is hopeful to have him back for the 2008 season.
"He'll continue to rehab and get better to give him a chance to get on the field with us next year."
Injury Update: LB D'Qwell Jackson (foot) and OL Seth McKinney (shoulder) will not practice on Wednesday, but everyone else practiced. Also, Crennel said LB Willie McGinest will not practice for personal reasons.
Crennel said that Lennie Friedman and Ryan Tucker will take reps in McKinney's place at practice.
"We'll take it day to day with (McKinney)," Crennel said. "We'll work Lennie in there and Tucker in there at practice."
Tucker said he hasn't played guard in a game since his rookie year.
"It's been about nine years," he said. "It was nice that I was able to get some reps there in the preseason."