Key Match-ups: Steelers-Browns

Neal Coolong examines the key match-ups in tonight's game between the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

LBs James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons vs. QB Brady Quinn and RB Jerome Harrison

Quinn had an excellent outing against San Diego in Week 13, throwing three touchdown passes (two to Harrison, both in the red zone) with no interceptions in the Browns 30-23 loss. Despite a brutal performance against Cincinnati in Week 12, Quinn has thrown seven touchdown passes without an interception in the Browns previous three games. Harrison caught seven of those passes, as Quinn's eyes are clearly looking for the short-to-intermediate routes.

Farrior and Timmons are likely to be challenged by this short passing attack (Quinn attempted 55 passes against San Diego's 21st-ranked rush defense). Cleveland will look to throw the ball due to the moderate success they've had in that phase recently, and they'll have to be concerned with Harrison, particularly in the red zone.

WR Limas Sweed vs. CB Brandon McDonald

Sweed will get the start over injured Hines Ward, and the monkey on his back is the size of King Kong. A few drops in Sweed's short career continue to haunt him, and on a short week with little to study of Sweed, it's a tough assignment for any defender. Physical ability and work ethic haven't been concerns with Sweed, and it seems he just needs a reception or two to get into a rhythm. Playing in the slot, he'll be running the routes of a possession receiver, and considering his size advantage over McDonald (6-foot-4 to 5-foot-10), he's in position to have a breakout game.

McDonald has been the Browns' most consistent corner, and with Eric Wright nursing a hamstring injury, McDonald will be moved around the defense to help cover Santonio Holmes as well as Sweed. He did a good job on Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, who possesses similar size as Sweed, but McDonald, and the rest of the Browns secondary, had difficulties with open field tackling.

TE Heath Miller vs. ILB David Bowens

Bowens is listed as probable with a knee injury, one week after San Diego tight end Antonio Gates shredded the Browns for 167 yards and a touchdown. Bowens, along with D'Qwell Jackson (who's now on the IR) and Kaluka Maiava took turns handling Miller in Pittsburgh's Week 6 victory. Miller finished with six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Miller has had a few drops in the past few weeks, but this is the kind of match-up where he can put up season-high numbers. Cleveland's linebacking unit is hindered quite a bit without Jackson, and Roethlisberger will look Miller's way often.

OLB James Harrison vs. LT Joe Thomas

It's impossible to overlook this match-up, considering it pits the best pass blocker in the game against the best OLB pass rusher in the game.

Thomas stopped Harrison in their last meeting, which is getting more and more common as the rivalry continues between the two. Harrison stunted over and through G Eric Steinbach for his lone QB hit, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see that kind of strategy again. In terms of Harrison going against Thomas, Quinn can count on his backside being protected.

The Coolong Scorecard
Steelers Unit Browns
x Quarterback  
x Running backs  
  Offensive line x
x Wide receivers  
x Tight ends  
x Defensive line  
x Linebackers  
x Defensive backs  
  Special teams x

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