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Steelers vs. Browns game preview: Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has difficult task in Week 12

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau doesn't lose to rookie quarterbacks when the Steelers play their starters in a game. With so many injuries on offense for the Steelers, it almost takes on more of a look of a Week 17 throwaway game, though.


The last time a rookie quarterback defeated a Steelers team with Dick LeBeau as its defensive coordinator was in 2007, when Baltimore took a throwaway win off the Steelers 27-21.

The Steelers had already clinched the AFC North division and were already scheduled to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the AFC playoffs the following week.

Nothing would change that.

So in the 17th Week, the Steelers rested. Several starters were removed, and the floundering Ravens won one more game for their soon-to-be-departing head coach Brian Billick.

Outside of that - something the Steelers clearly put little value into - the Steelers really don't get beaten by rookie quarterbacks. Can Cleveland's Brandon Weeden change that?

When the Browns have the ball

Cleveland didn't expect to get a passer who, after 10 games, is statistically worse than former starter Colt McCoy in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. That's where they are right now with Weeden.

He has shown flashes of mediocrity so far, though, and Cleveland has competed in multiple games this season.

Weeden's issue primarily seems to be a lack of chemistry on cohesion with the rest of the offense. He seems to hang onto the ball while waiting for passing targets to break open, and through that, takes a few sacks he probably shouldn't.

Of the running backs in the top 20 of yards gained, only Cincinnati's BenJarvis Green Ellis has less yards per carry (3.5) than Cleveland RB Trent Richardson (3.7), and his 180 carries through 10 games is the ninth-highest total in the NFL. Considering Cleveland has been on the wrong side of a few blowouts this season, logic indicates he'd be getting the ball even more if they could have kept a few of those games closer.

Offensively, this Browns team plays so much into Dick LeBeau's defense, it's hard to see them scoring on more than two possessions. They throw the ball on 61 percent of their offensive snaps, yet, Weeden's 6.19 yards per attempt is among the lowest in the NFL. Richardson is a young and powerful runner but not nearly as effective as some may feel he is.

This is a one-dimensional offense that should struggle greatly to move the ball on Pittsburgh's defense.

When the Steelers have the ball

Your guess on what Pittsburgh will do offensively is as good as anyone's. There's very little precedent on what a team can consistently be known to do when their top two quarterbacks are out and their top receiver is out. One trend that does seem to exist is QB Charlie Batch will at least try to hit WR Mike Wallace on a deep pass at some point. The pair have connected for long passing plays (20 or more yards) at least once in each of Batch's last three starts (two in 2010 and one in 2011).

Outside of that, the Browns allow 125 yards rushing per game (24th in the NFL) and their 86.5 passer rating against is around the middle of the pack in the NFL.

It's likely Cleveland will bring hard-hitting strong safety T.J. Ward into the box on early downs, and try to force 2nd and 3rd and long situations, where their solid coverage defense can try to steal possessions from the possession-focused Steelers offense.

Batch becomes an instrumental part of this game. He will have to complete passes - particularly on later downs - if the Steelers want to avoid the upset.

Recent history points toward the Steelers having some struggles scoring in Cleveland, and these teams have combined for only 57 points in three of their last four meetings in Cleveland - with the Browns having stolen one in 2009 by a score of 13-9.

Expect the scoring to be low, but if the Steelers maintain possession and are able to gain three or more yards on first downs, they can score enough to let their defense pound on Weeden en route to their second divisional win of the year.