QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. CB Eric Wright
Roethlisberger's return is one of the most anticipated storylines of the year. He couldn't be coming back against a more favorable opponent. While the Browns have played far better than their 1-4 record indicates, the performances by their secondary in all five of those games have been suspect, at best. Wright has been targeted about as often as any corner in the league, and is giving up a ridiculous 15.8 yards per reception.
A rested and focused Roethlisberger is likely to extend this trend. The Steelers know Cleveland's offense will be hampered this game, with injuries keeping their two best skill players – Seneca Wallace and Peyton Hillis – out or impaired, and will look to step on the Browns' throats early. The Steelers will want to control the clock, but they will need to see what Roethlisberger can do in the vertical game at some point.
T.J. Ward came into national prominence with a cheap shot to the head of Bengals WR Jordan Shipley in Week 3. Shipley left the game with a concussion, and Ward picked up a penalty and a $15,000 fine. Part of his assignment Sunday will be to cover a man with the same last name, and a similar reputation (fairly earned or not). Hines Ward loves getting into the heads of his opponents, and is no doubt aware of T.J. Ward's fine. Hines Ward is the team's emotional leader on offense, and his scraps with opposing players can be seen as a catalyst for the rest of the team.
T.J. Ward seems to be a perfect target, considering the Browns problems with pass defense – quarterbacks have a rating of 96.7 against them and have racked up 14 plays of 20 yards or more. Getting the rookie to bite on a few double-moves, whether by Ward or WR Mike Wallace, would seem to be a wise move by the Steelers.
It's always a marquee matchup; two of the best at their positions going after each other twice a year. Thomas has gotten the best of Harrison since 2007, when Thomas was a rookie and Harrison was in his first year as a starter. Both have been to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons, but Thomas has held Harrison to half a sack in five previous meetings.
It isn't without help, and Thomas will have that luxury in Week 5 as well. Ben Watson is a quality blocking tight end, and Hillis is a stout pass blocker as well. However, Falcons DE John Abraham lit Thomas up for two sacks and his pressure on another pass led to an interception thrown by QB Jake Delhomme.
Miller was a Pro Bowl selection in 2009 due to his commanding all-around presence. He's both one of the best pass-catching and blocking tight ends in the game. He's gotten off to a slow start in 2010, partially due to subpar quarterback performances in Pittsburgh's first four games.
Roth is one of the league's most underrated players. The 6-foot-4, 275 pound outside linebacker hammers tight ends on the strong side of the field, using his strength to not allow them to release for a pass, and standing them up to provide excellent support against the run. Miller is a better athlete than Roth is, and he'll need that ability to move Roth off the line of scrimmage. In order for Pittsburgh to exploit the advantage they have against Cleveland's deep secondary, Miller will have to escape Roth's jam at the line, and drag Roth into coverage, well out of Roethlisberger's face.