Rising vs. Falling
The Browns have faced the Steelers 10 times in their season finale. They've lost all 10 of those games. Certainly, one dividing point between these teams over the past decade has been that one is typically playing meaningful football this time of the year, and one isn't. Neither did last season, but Pittsburgh won their Week 17 throwaway game. Cleveland looks to be working beyond 2013 already, having put up a "packing it in" effort in a Week 16 loss to the Jets.
It's usually about this match-up, but the stark contrast between the starting quarterbacks in this game is staggering. Cleveland's Jason Campbell has been trounced in three career starts against the Steelers, and Ben Roethlisberger has owned Cleveland throughout his entire career. On paper, it's the most one-sided quarterback match-up of the week, perhaps of the season. In reality, Campbell, at some point, has to be able to make a few plays to keep his team competitive. Roethlisberger, though, is playing some of the best football of his career, and should be able to keep the Steelers' offense hot (29.8 points a game over their last eight contests).
Records gonna fall
Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, barring unforeseen circumstances, will break Franco Harris's rookie record for total yards (1,235). He's averaging 110 yards from scrimmage over his last five games, having scored three touchdowns and caught 20 passes. The Browns did a relatively good job of bottling him up in Pittsburgh's Week 12 victory, but Bell appears to be just now hitting his stride. He'll make it very hard for Cleveland's sagging defense.
Tale of Many Takeaways
After producing just two takeaways in their first six games (2-4), the Steelers have forced 16 takeaways over their next nine games (6-3), including a season-high four against Cleveland in Week 12. Pittsburgh's pass rush has improved significantly in that time as well, including a dominating performance by outside linebacker Jason Worilds against Cleveland. Worilds is questionable for this game with an abdominal injury, but if he can play effectively, the Steelers can dominate this game again.
The once-maligned Steelers pass protection as well as the pass rush has yielded a plus-10 advantage in sacks over the team's last five games. They've sacked the opposing quarterback 14 times since Week 12 (a win over Cleveland) while only having allowed four sacks in that span. Pittsburgh should be able to provide adequate protection of Roethlisberger today, and that's going to lead to a win more often than not.
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