Eric Mangini's job as head coach is on the line. If the Browns do not beat the Steelers on Thursday night in Cleveland Browns Stadium, and if Mangini is fired when the season ends, it would mean two coaches came and went without beating their turnpike rivals.
The Browns (1-11) have long been out of any playoff picture. But the Steelers (6-6) need this game, so the Browns can expect Pittsburgh to come in hungry. The Browns have not beaten the Steelers since the first meeting in 2003.
The defense that opened the game Sunday against the Chargers was missing five starters from the team that gave up 34 points to the Steelers on Oct. 18 in Pittsburgh. Linebackers D'Qwell Jackson (pectoral) and Eric Barton (neck), nose tackle Shaun Rogers (leg, ankle) and safety Brodney Pool (concussion) are on injured reserve. End Kenyon Coleman missed the game against San Diego with a knee injury and will probably be held out Thursday night; he had to wear a brace just to walk.
The Browns actually kept the Steelers' running game in check in the October game. Rashard Mendenhall gained 62 yards on 17 carries. It was big plays that did in the Browns; they gave up nine pass plays of 20 yards or more plus a 21-yard run on an end around by Mike Wallace.
C.J. Mosley, who started at end in place of Coleman and then broke his right ankle in the first quarter, expects teams to run on the Browns because of all the injuries and because the Bengals ran through them for 210 yards on Nov. 29 in a game the Bengals won 16-7.
"That's definitely what a professional football team is supposed to do," Mosley said. "They analyze the other team and take advantage of what they think might be a weakness. You can't blame them if they do the exact game plan Cincinnati used.
"You see we lost four defensive starters in one game and the success Cincinnati had, why wouldn't they try to run on us?"
The Chargers averaged just 2.8 yards on 32 carries.
The offensive lineup facing the Steelers is different, too. Derek Anderson started at quarterback in Pittsburgh and completed just 9 of 24 passes for 122 yards. Seven passes were dropped.
Brady Quinn will be making his fifth straight start still looking for his first victory this season. He is 0-7 as a starter in 2009; he was 1-2 starting last year.
The Browns will also be missing Jamal Lewis, who is on injured reserve with post concussion syndrome. The Steelers always seemed to have his number anyway, whether when he was with the Ravens or the last five games with the Browns. He carried 11 times in the game in Pittsburgh and gained only 21 yards.
Only four games remain for the Browns to avoid posting their worst record in franchise history. They were 2-14 in the 1999 expansion season.
LINEUP WATCH: WR Brian Robiskie played vs. the Chargers after two weeks on the inactive list. He caught four passes after catching one in 11 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- The Browns have been beaten 12 straight times by the Steelers.
--G Rex Hadnot missed the Chargers game with a knee injury.
--QB Brady Quinn threw three touchdowns and no interceptions.
--RB Jerome Harrison caught seven passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
--TE Evan Moore, signed from the practice squad Saturday, caught six passes for 80 yards.