2011 Playoffs

Taking on Browns in Cleveland is more than a tune-up game

With the abysmal record of the Cleveland Browns (4-11), many Steelers fans are giving the Steelers a pass, believing that it will be an easy win. When the Steelers met the Browns earlier in the season (week 14), they managed to hold on to pull off a 14-3 win. Ben Roethlisberger was injured, as was Colt McCoy. This Sunday, there is no guarantee of a win for the Steelers, although odds are in their favor.

The road to the playoffs runs through Cleveland Stadium for the Steelers this week, but also through Paul Brown Stadium where the Cincinnati Bengals will be scratching and clawing at the Ravens in order to get into the playoffs. The Steelers would love to see Cincy win. Here\’s why:

If the Bengals beat Baltimore, the AFC North Division championship crown can go to the Steelers. The Steelers swept the Cincinnati series, and hope to sweep the Browns as well; they have to win to finish the equation. Without a win and a Baltimore loss, the Ravens will hold on to the title due to the fact that they swept the Steelers this year.

So, those in Black and Gold (player, coach or fan) shouldn\’t lose focus. The win in Cleveland is a must if the Steelers seriously want to pursue that Lombardi Trophy once again this season. Pittsburgh hasn\’t played well this season on the road (4-3 record, 18 turnovers), but have looked great at home (7-1 record, 8 turnovers). One thing that would help the Steelers secure the win would be to raise their turnover numbers (in their favor) to a higher level. The Steelers haven\’t produced the number of defensive takeaways that they did in 2010, and that has been apparent in games that have been close. When the Steelers have played away games this season they averaged 15 points-per-game and averaged 20 allowed points-per-game. At home, they\’ve averaged 25 points-per-game and only 10 allowed points-per-game. The sack number at home is 28 while the Steelers have only managed five on the road.

Roethlisberger would like to get into the regular-season finale and told the media Thursday, “As long as I can deal with pain, I\’ll be out there. I don\’t want to let the guys down, so I\’ll do what I can to be out there.” He means every word. Roethlisberger fully participated in practice again Thursday, but admitted that his ankle isn\’t 100 percent. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians confirmed that he will play Roethlisberger if Ben is healthy enough to go.

Veteran and 37-year-old Charlie Batch proved that he is prepared to take the reins if Roethlisberger can\’t get his feet under him. Against the St. Louis Rams, Batch threw for 208 yards and helped the Steelers seal a 27-0 shutout.

The Steelers can\’t afford to walk onto the field with the mental attitude that a win is given Sunday. Both the offense and the defense must meld to complete a victory in order to move into the post-season. Afterall, most teams will tell you that it is a whole new season once the playoffs begin.

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