TV: NBC (Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer) SERIES: 111th meeting. The series is tied, 55-55, and the Steelers have won two playoff games. Pittsburgh is 8-1 in Cleveland since the Browns' return in 1999. The Steelers have won nine straight in this series, 15 of 16, including a comeback 31-28 victory Nov. 11 in Heinz Field in their most recent game.
PREDICTION: Steelers 34-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns' secondary was torched against Dallas and is vulnerable minus injured S Sean Jones, but the Steelers will stick to the script. That means utilizing RB Willie Parker heavily early on and softening the pass defense for QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns barely touched Cowboys QB Tony Romo, but the Steelers are still concerned about pass protection and Browns coach Romeo Crennel said they'd be more creative in their rush schemes. ... The Browns have not had a 100-yard rusher against the Steelers since their last win in the series in 2003. But RB Jamal Lewis has to be a consistent factor considering the Steelers' ability to control the clock and the uncertain status of WR Donte' Stallworth. Minus Stallworth, the Browns are very inexperienced outside opposite Braylon Edwards, but the Browns do want to test CBs Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor.
Roethlisberger has a sore shoulder, but will play.
Stallworth (strained quadriceps) and S Brodney Pool (concussion) are uncertain.
FAST FACTS: Roethlisberger has 26 career games with a passer rating of at least 100. ... Browns QB Derek Anderson is 7-2 as a starter at home.
--CB Deshea Townsend (bruised heel) did not practice again and coach Mike Tomlin said he was not game ready. That means that Bryant McFadden could start at right corner Sunday.
--OT Marvel Smith, who missed practice on Wednesday with a groin injury, went through a full practice on Thursday and should start.
--DE Brett Keisel repeated a trend in the opener that he had last season. He had no sacks but led the Steelers with three quarterback pressures.
--QB Ben Roethlisberger's record in his home state of Ohio, where he played high school and college, is 9-0 in Cincinnati and Cleveland since he joined the Steelers in 2004.
--TE Heath Miller could have a big game against Cleveland. Third on the Steelers with 47 receptions last season, he will operate in a secondary that's missing strong safety Sean Jones.
--WR Donte Stallworth was held from practice again Thursday because of a strained quadriceps. Coach Romeo Crennel said Stallworth is doubtful for Pittsburgh, but he did not rule out Stallworth playing.
--LB Willie McGinest will play in his 200th NFL game Sunday night. He is in his 15th NFL season and third with the Browns after playing 12 years in New England.
--LB Kamerion Wimbley was limited in practice Thursday because of a groin injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday.
--S Brodney Pool was limited, but he practiced for a second straight day Thursday. Pool has not played since suffering a concussion Aug. 18.
--KR Josh Cribbs continues to improve from a sprained ankle. Coach Romeo Crennel said if cleared by trainers to play, Cribbs' assignments against the Steelers will not be limited.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Two big practice days heading into an early AFC North Division showdown in Cleveland, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still hasn't thrown a pass.
Roethlisberger, who did not practice at all on Wednesday, took some snaps on Thursday but mainly just handed off. Byron Leftwich, his backup, did all the throwing.
Roethlisberger has a sore right shoulder, the result of a sack by Houston's Mario Williams Sunday at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger lost a fumble on the play. He never left the game until the start of the fourth quarter, when coach Mike Tomlin pulled him for competitive reasons after Pittsburgh jumped in front 35-3.
There had been more concern about Roethlisberger's right knee that was hyperextended near the end of the first half. As long as Roethlisberger can practice on Friday, he will play.
"That is a big man. He about broke my arm when he caused the fumble," Roethlisberger said of Houston's Williams. "I have been hit like that a lot, but my arm was still attached to the football and he was holding my arm. He is a big man."
Roethlisberger is a big man in the Steelers offense. He completed 13 of 14 passes against Houston, with the only incompletion one he threw away to avoid a sack. He threw two touchdown passes to Hines Ward. Leftwich was 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter.
Second-year cornerback Brandon McDonald expects Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to fire passes deep against the Browns Sunday night, particularly after the success Dallas quarterback Tony Romo had in the season opener. One of the 24 passes Romo completed was a 35-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens over McDonald.
"Being that we're a young group, they're definitely going to come after us again," McDonald said. "That's going to be week in and week out.
"This is a copycat league. Since Dallas threw a couple balls over our head, Pittsburgh is going to throw some deep balls and try to run the ball down our throats. A lot of things the Cowboys did against us, they'll probably try to do again this week."
McDonald should have had help from a safety on the touchdown pass to Owens, but it never arrived. Starting free safety Brodney Pool missed the Dallas game with a concussion. He is expected to start against the Steelers because he practiced Wednesday and Thursday -- he was injured in a preseason game Aug. 18 -- but starting strong safety Sean Jones won't be playing against the Steelers because he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Thursday. Mike Adams will start in place of Jones.
The Browns started correcting errors in the film room Monday and then took that to the practice field Wednesday and Thursday. Players on the scout team this week are mimicking Steelers receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
"We have to start from the beginning," McDonald said. "Our scheme is good. We just have to execute better. We made a lot of mental mistakes and had miscommunications in the back end against Dallas. In this league, those are things you can't afford to do.
"Things aren't always going to go your way. It's part of being a football player. It's just more critical when it happens in the back end because we're the last line of defense. We're going to try -- no, I'm not going to say try -- we're going to get those things fixed this week and we'll be a lot better on Sunday."
The Browns will try to slow a Pittsburgh offense that scored 38 points and rolled up 182 yards rushing against Houston in the opener. Last week, the Browns were scorched for 28 points and 487 yards by Dallas.
"They have Hines Ward, fast Willie Parker and Ben Roethlisberger," Adams said of the Steelers. "Those guys are dangerous.
"You can't compare them too much to Dallas because they're totally different teams, but athletically they're just as good. We have to step our game up and embrace the situation."