SERIES HISTORY: 127th regular-season meeting. The Steelers lead the series, 68-58, and have won six of the past seven. The Browns have won two of the past four in Cleveland, including a 31-10 victory in 2014. The Steelers and Browns met in the postseason twice, with the Steelers winning each time in 1994 and 2002.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
This is a great matchup for the Steelers. Cleveland has one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Browns give up 419 yards and 30.1 points per game. Only the 49ers yield more yards and more points. The Steelers haven't lived up to preseason expectations, but they remain dangerous on offense. They have scored 30 points or more in four of nine games, including 30 last week against Dallas.
Pittsburgh can take advantage of a weak Cleveland secondary that has struggled against other top passing offenses. It is also a chance for the Steelers to get their running game healthy. The Steelers have struggled to find room for running back Le'Veon Bell, but the Browns are 31st in the NFL against the rush, allowing 144 yards per game.
Pittsburgh has struggled on defense, especially giving up big plays, but the Browns pose little threat. They average just 17.5 points per game and have a hard time moving the ball reliably running or passing. The Browns have run well against the Steelers in recent years and Isaiah Crowell has had some good moments this year, so that will be something to watch with the Steelers thin along the defensive line.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Browns CB Joe Haden. Brown has gotten the better of Haden in recent years, and he has posted two 100-yard receiving games in the past three weeks. Against the Cowboys, Brown had 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. Haden has three interceptions this season, including one last week against the Ravens. He'll have to play well in order for the Browns to keep the Steelers' offense in check.
--Browns WR Terrelle Pryor vs. Steelers CB Ross Cockrell. There haven't been many bright spots for the Browns this season, but Pryor is one of them. He has 51 receptions for 627 yards and four touchdowns. Cockrell has done well when matched up against top receivers from other teams this season. After rookie corner Artie Burns struggled the past two weeks against Mike Wallace and Dez Bryant, the Steelers are likely to have Cockrell shadow Pryor.
Steelers DE Ricardo Mathews. With starting defensive end and team captain Cam Heyward out for the rest of the season with a pectoral injury, Mathews will assume a bigger role. He was signed after spending last season with the Chargers. He has five tackles in just 130 defensive snaps, but he'll get plenty of opportunities now that he's a starter. In 89 games, including 17 starts, Mathews has four sacks and two forced fumbles.
Pittsburgh -- Out: DE Cameron Heyward (pectoral), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), S Shamarko Thomas (groin), WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder), RB DeAngelo Williams (knee). Questionable: S Jordan Dangerfield (groin), TE Xaiver Grimble (quadricep).
Cleveland -- Questionable: CB Tramon Williams (knee).
Several Steelers, including QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le'Veon Bell, have been critical of the team's practice habits. Bell said last week the Steelers make the same mistakes in practice that take place in games. After the Week 10 loss to the Cowboys, Roethlisberger said players have to be held accountable.
Roethlisberger is 20-2 vs. the Browns. In the past two meetings, he has passed for 728 yards and six TDs. Last week vs. Dallas, he completed 37 of 46 for 408 yards and three TDs.
Bell has 100-plus scrimmage yards in five of the last six games. In the last four vs. the Browns, he has totaled 496 yards and scored two rushing TDs.
Browns rookie QB Cody Kessler has 119 consecutive passes without an interception. He leads rookies and is eighth in the NFL with a 66.9 completion percentage.
Browns WR Terrelle Pryor leads the team with 51 catches, 627 yards and four TDs. Pryor has a 93-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh, but that was on a run as QB of the Oakland Raiders in 2013.
PREDICTION: The Steelers came close to beating Dallas last week and certainly should be expected to break their losing streak against the Browns.
OUR PICK: Steelers, 38-28.