Prime Time Rivalry
Coming off a strong performance in their season opener, the visiting Steelers look for their 10th straight win over the Browns, who are eager to erase the memory of an ugly Week 1 loss.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Pittsburgh -6 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -6 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Pittsburgh and Cleveland have met 110 times in the regular season since the start of the 1950 season, with each team winning 55 times. The rivalry's status as one of the NFL's most hostile has never been in question, nor has the one-sidedness of the series through lengthy stretches. The Browns won 31 of their 40 games against the Steelers during the '50s and '60s, the era in which Cleveland won four NFL championships.
The Steelers took 15 of 20 matchups in the '70s, when they won four Super Bowls. The teams split their next 32 games before the Browns franchise relocated to Baltimore after the 1995 season, but after Cleveland rejoined the NFL in 1999, the momentum swung back Pittsburgh's way.
The Steelers have won 15 of 18 meetings since the Browns returned, including nine straight by an average of 15.6 points.
"You could put this game in April and Browns-Steelers is important,'' Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson said. "This isn't just any week, it's Steelers Week."
The Browns finished 2007 with their best record since their return to the league, going 10-6 and tying the Steelers for first place in the AFC North. Another head-to-head sweep, however, gave Pittsburgh the division title and helped keep Cleveland out of the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
The teams expected to once again battle for the division crown in 2008, but if one week is any indication, they appear to be headed in opposite directions. The Steelers routed Houston 38-17 on Sunday at Heinz Field, while the Browns' dismal play from a winless preseason appeared to carry over in a 28-10 home loss to Dallas.
Pittsburgh won 34-7 at Cleveland in the season opener for both teams last year, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin noted that the Browns scored 51 points the next week in a victory over Cincinnati.
"We have evidence that they are capable of putting what happens behind them in Week 1 and getting better," he said. "They will come ready to play."
Willie Parker played his first game since breaking his leg in December and was the offensive star for Pittsburgh in the opener, rushing for 138 yards on 25 carries. He had three touchdowns after scoring only twice last season, when he was often being replaced by a bigger back near the goal line.
"This team knows I'll do anything to be the goal-line back,'' Parker said. "That's part of being a running back.''
Parker has been a major problem for the Browns, running for at least 100 yards in each of his last three games against Cleveland. He rushed for a career-high 223 yards in a 27-7 win over the Browns on Dec. 7, 2006.
Ben Roethlisberger has the league's highest quarterback rating (147.0) after Week 1, as he went 13-of-14 for 137 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters against Houston.
Roethlisberger, an Ohio native, is 7-0 against Cleveland, throwing for 11 TDs and running for another. He had six passing TDs in the two wins over the Browns last season.
Assuming Roethlisberger, who's nursing a sore shoulder, suits up, he'll face a depleted Browns secondary. Sean Jones will be out at least a month with a knee injury, and fellow safety Brodney Pool missed the opener with a concussion. He's questionable against Pittsburgh.
Cleveland's defense gave up 487 yards in the loss to Dallas, but perhaps the more disappointing unit was the offense. After putting up 351.3 yards per game and averaging 25.1 points last season, the Browns were held to 205 yards. Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards was limited to two catches for 14 yards.
Edwards, who had one catch for a touchdown in the Browns' 31-28 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 11, didn't seem concerned over the offensive struggles in Week 1.
"Last time I checked, we still have 15 games so we have a lot of time to get better,'' he said. "We'll be fine.''
The Browns were without All-Pro kick returner Joshua Cribbs (ankle) against the Cowboys, but it appears Cribbs will suit up against the Steelers. Tomlin and his special teams have reason to be concerned - Cribbs has taken back two kicks for touchdowns against Pittsburgh.
"There is only one Joshua Cribbs, and we are going to see him on Sunday," Tomlin said.
Did you like this article? Subscribe to our NFL news feed for the fastest updates delivered right to you - Click here to Subscribe