Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the top matchups in today's Steelers-Browns game.

NTs Casey Hampton and Steve McLendon vs. G Shawn Lauvao

Hampton and McLendon had their way with Lauvao in the first meeting between these teams, and with the Steelers likely to employ an arsenal of run blitzes, whoever is in between Hampton and McLendon will likely attack the gap over which Lauvao should be blocking.

Lauvao typically has help from C Alex Mack, but the Browns played their two tight end package a lot in their last game against the Steelers. That's something St. Louis did a lot of in Pittsburgh's Week 16 win. If they try to run stretch zone plays from 2-TE sets, Lauvao will have to prevent the nose tackle from getting behind the line of scrimmage.

WR Antonio Brown vs. CB Joe Haden

Brown was named the Steelers MVP for a good reason. He took a 10-yard back-shoulder fade from QB Ben Roethlisberger, made a great catch, and took it all the way for a 79-yard touchdown. Brown's body control is among the best in the league, and Haden – who was covering Brown on his touchdown – has to maintain discipline each time he covers him.

Haden is among the best cover corners in the league, but his run support has been the most impressive part of his 2011 season. He made a great read-and-react play against Pittsburgh in Week 14, stopping what should have been a touchdown run at the goal line by RB Rashard Mendenhall. He's bigger than Brown and should be able to fight through blocks in run support.

P Jeremy Kapinos vs. KR Josh Cribbs

Despite the Steelers holding Cribbs in check in Week 14, it's still a position of advantage for the Browns. Kapinos's punts are returned 60 percent of the time, which is the third-highest total in the league. His net average of 37.4 is among the lowest in the NFL. He's got to get more hang time and keep angling it away from the ever-dangerous Cribbs.

The Steelers attacked Cribbs with solid lane discipline last time, but Cribbs is still one of the best return men in the game. This looks to be a tough defensive affair, and one play could make the difference. Cribbs is the only significantly threatening offensive player the Browns have, and they'll need him to make a play if they're going to compete.

Steel City Insider Top Stories