In Batch they trust

You can bet Cleveland's coaching staff was watching the game film of the Steelers' 20-10 victory over Green Bay last week and licking its chops.

The Steelers, for the most part, played the entire game within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage offensively, something that certainly makes defending them a lot easier.

Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt admitted he took fewer chances downfield with Charlie Batch making his first start at quarterback since 2001.

"It was probably my fault more than anything," said Whisenhunt. "We had those plays in there for Charlie to run and I didn't call them. (The passing numbers are) a little discouraging because we're better than that. Certainly, Charlie is better than that."

Perhaps Whisenhunt was still feeling the sting of Tommy Maddox's three-interception game in a loss to Jacksonville Oct. 16. In that game, the Steelers had an uncharacteristic 50-50 run-pass ratio. For a team that usually runs the ball 60-plus percent of the time, that's quite a difference.

Batch completed 9 of 16 passes for just 65 yards with one interception for a quarterback rating of 39.8. Just two of those passes were completed to wide receivers, and more important, the Steelers failed to convert any of their eight third down opportunities.

Certainly part of that was because Batch was a little rusty in a game that not only marked his first start in four years, but his first real regular season action in that time span. The question is, will the Steelers find out if Batch is better when they host Cleveland Sunday night.

Though the Browns allow over 129 yards per game on the ground, they are likely to put eight and nine men up on the line of scrimmage and dare Batch to beat them downfield.

Green Bay did so and the Steelers never took advantage. As a result, they were fortunate to come away with a victory. The Packers offense was just too banged up to take advantage of the Steelers' lack of offense.

New Browns head coach Romeo Crennel was part of a staff that gave the Steelers fits when he was a member of New England's staff. Certainly Crennel doesn't have the players he did in New England, but he knows a little something about slowing the Steelers' rushing attack.

The Steelers are going to need a better game out of Batch this week to win. And that means they are going to need a better game out of Whisenhunt as well.


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