We highlighted Ben Roethlisberger last week as a player who needed to have a big game in order to defeat the Detroit Lions. He did. He did, indeed. This week, it's perhaps even more important. Roethlisberger needs to make sharp decisions and protect the football - a seemingly impossible task over four quarters in snowy conditions. This team is going to live and die with Roethlisberger's ability to conjure up offensive success, and considering the regular season playoff-like environment both teams find themselves in, it's his chance to shine.
The Browns are forced to start Jason Campbell, the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week in Week 9, but one of the lowest-rated passers in Week 11. Campbell looked confused and out of sorts in a 41-20 loss to Cincinnati, throwing three interceptions and managing just three scoring drives on the day. The Steelers hold a significant advantage over the Browns in the most important position on the field.
Running by Passing
Neither of these teams have proved very much effective in the ground game, and it doesn't seem like either one will be poised for huge rushing yards this afternoon (famous last words). The Steelers' usage of running back Le'Veon Bell has been steadily in the 20-plus touch range, and his receiving skills will be pivotal in this game. He's already a noticeable match-up advantage for the Steelers, and runs well (if not all that swiftly) in space. He'll be a focal point of the Steelers' offensive attack.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown has a good chance of cracking the 1,000 receiving yard mark for the second time in his career. Sitting at 952, he has one of his toughest match-ups to date. Expect the Steelers to use him in motion, running shorter flare patterns in an effort to keep off jams at the line of scrimmage. Brown had a big game last week against the Lions, and is establishing himself as one of the premier threats with the ball in his hands in the NFL. The Steelers will use him extensively, but will set him up in the short field in order to let him create production.
366 days ago, the Browns scored a 20-14 upset over the Steelers in Cleveland - a game that saw a remarkable eight Steelers turnovers. Cleveland managed a six-point victory. There's a level of payback involved here. The Steelers will remember that game from last year - one of the worst losses in a dismal season - and likely preached that message all week. The Steelers have beaten the Browns 22 of the last 25 times these teams have played, and two of those games came in Cleveland. There's a personal issue here, and even considering both teams need a win to stay alive for the final wild card spot in the AFC, the Steelers have to utilize the chip that's on their shoulder from losing without Roethlisberger last year - a player who's 15-1 against the Browns in his career.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers vs. Browns Week 12 2013: Everything you need to know before 1 p.m. ET kickoff
- AFC Playoff Picture: three big games in Week 12 will begin to separate contenders
- Fantasy Football Week 12: Which Steelers to start/sit
- Steelers have beaten Norv Turner six times in seven career games
- Steelers vs. Browns injury report: Cleveland down Robertson, Steelers list Woodley and Keisel as questionable
- Five days of AFC North divisional and playoff excitement