Pittsburgh Final Rank 7th (Rush 1st, Pass 20th). The Steelers may not have Kendrell Bell and/or Chad Scott for the game on Sunday. Even if both start, back-ups Deshea Townsend and Larry Foote may see significant action. Foote must play his gaps to perfection and Townsend must be a sure tackler. The Steelers need Mike Logan to be a force on the pass rush and Joey Porter to play up to the level he achieved earlier in the season.
Cleveland Final Rank 21st (Rush 27th, Pass 15th). The Browns rank 14 spots behind the Steelers, but that's only a difference of about 30 yards of total offense so the numbers are a bit misleading. What the Browns want to see is Jerome Bettis lining up in the backfield. They stopped him all year and they'll stop him again on Sunday if he plays significantly. This will force the Steelers into multiple 3rd down and long situations the Browns feel their secondary matches up well there.
Advantage: The Steelers have the better pass rush, but let's hope it lasts through the 4th quarter.
Pittsburgh Final Rank 5th (Rush 9th, Pass 7th). Jerome Bettis seems like he'll probably get many carries early. Here's betting he won't get more than 10 in the game due to the fact that he won't be effective at all early on and that Mularkey won't waste his time. That means Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala needs to stay healthy for the whole game. He'll need to be able to pick up the short yardage that Zereoue can't.
Cleveland Final Rank 23rd (Rush 23rd, Pass 18th). William Green may be more important to the success of the Browns this Sunday. If he can't gain at least 75 yards, the Browns won't win the game, pure and simple. Quincy Morgan needs to come up with at least two big plays. But, also watch out for Jamel White coming underneath for 3rd downs. He killed Pittsburgh in their latest meeting.
Advantage: The team with the better offense doesn't always get the advantage. But it will this week. The Steelers will find touchdowns in the red-zone scarce, but they'll put points up. 20 sounds about right.
From here on out, Tommy Maddox will be playing the biggest game of his career. The pressure can only get heavier, but the actual rush pressure on the field will be the only thing to distract him. This playoff season will be what defines his career. If he can provide a stabile presence behind center and be the catalyst for Steeler victories, then the Steelers made the correct choice in benching Kordell Stewart. But, if Maddox comes out and throws 3 interceptions, the Steelers must realize that the answer may be elsewhere.
Kelly Holcomb with a strong game (win or lose) may give Butch Davis a quarterback controversy this off-season. He'll need to be on target early because the Steelers will bring the house to try to end the game early. He also needs to stay healthy because he's the last quarterback with any threat on the team.
Advantage: I think Tommy Maddox will have a calming presence in an otherwise tense game.
3 Keys For the Browns
- The Browns must get victories in the following match-ups: Morgan vs. Washington, Roye vs. Faneca, and Dawson vs. Reed.
- The Browns must not overpursue when Zereoue lines up. He killed them for 111 yards in the last meeting.
- The Browns must keep the game close heading into the final minutes, then take care of business.
3 Keys For the Steelers
- The Steelers must get at least 150 yards of rushing from the backs/receivers.
- The Steelers must have a solid game from the special teams coverage units. They can't afford to give up easy points. They must make the Browns earn everything.
- The Steelers must spread the ball around on offense. Getting Terance Mathis and Antwaan Randle-El into the game through the air will force the Browns to spread the secondary thin.
Outlook: Remember the classic movie "Clash of the Titans"? The Steelers and Browns will be watching that movie a few times this week. However, the Steelers will watch it 10 more times.
--The Steel Apple