Who Are These Guys?
The rejuvenation of Ben Roethlisberger has helped the Pittsburgh Steelers regain their status as one of the elite teams in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, have ridden a breakout season from Derek Anderson during a surprising first half.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers host Anderson and the Browns on Sunday in a matchup of the top teams in the AFC North.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Pittsburgh -10 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 47.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -10 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Roethlisberger led the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl title in 2005, but threw a league-high 23 interceptions during a lackluster 2006 after an offseason motorcycle crash and emergency appendectomy that kept him sidelined for that season's first game.
This year, however, Roethlisberger has already set a career high with 20 touchdown passes while throwing only six INTs. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 completions, he's third in the league in touchdown-to-interception ratio, trailing only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
On Monday night, Roethlisberger tied a franchise record with five TD passes to lead Pittsburgh (6-2) to a 38-7 rout of Baltimore. He was 13-for-16 for 209 yards without an interception.
He left with a hip injury in the third quarter, but returned in the fourth and is expected to start Sunday.
"It's OK, I'm fine," he said after the game.
Roethlisberger's resurgence has lifted the Steelers to the top of the division and into a group of AFC Super Bowl contenders that includes New England and Indianapolis.
"We really don't want to measure it," coach Mike Tomlin said after his team improved to 3-0 against AFC North rivals. "We just want to prepare during the week and play to the best of our capabilities on weekends. Evaluate and make corrections and move on and do it again. Kind of live in a tunnel. That's all we've done."
The Steelers have won 13 of 14 against the Browns and have outscored them 231-94 during an eight-game win streak in the series, which includes Pittsburgh's 34-7 victory in Cleveland in the teams' season opener Sept. 9. Cleveland last beat Pittsburgh on Oct. 5, 2003.
The Browns (5-3), however, aren't the doormats of the division that they had been in previous meetings with the Steelers. Cleveland finished last in the AFC North in each of the last four seasons, but has won three in a row for the first time since 2001 and is looking for its first four-game win streak since posting five straight victories in 1994.
Cleveland has scored 101 points during its three consecutive victories.
"I think we need to play Pittsburgh again because this is a different team than the team that played them the first game of the season," coach Romeo Crennel told the Browns' official Web site. "We'll play them this time and I think you'll get a better evaluation of where this team is."
Anderson has been one of the primary reasons for Cleveland's unexpected first half. He opened the season second on the depth chart behind Charlie Frye and figured to eventually lose playing time to first-round draft pick Brady Quinn.
Anderson, however, has 2,108 passing yards and 17 passing touchdowns, putting him on pace for franchise records in both categories.
Tight end Kellen Winslow has become one of Anderson's favorite targets. Despite struggling with shoulder and knee injuries, Winslow tied a career high with 11 receptions for a career-high 125 yards in the Browns' 33-30 overtime win against Seattle on Sunday.
"It's about how bad do you want it," Winslow said. "I'm just so proud of us because we fought as a team. We deserve this."
Known more for his cocky attitude than his production during two injury-marred seasons to start his career, Winslow had a breakout 2006 season and is tied for the team lead with 42 catches while leading NFL tight ends with 657 receiving yards.
"When I came in as a rookie, I felt I had a lot to prove, but I didn't know how to go about it, I think," he said. "I wanted to tell everybody how good I was. I learned you don't have to do that. The great ones don't do that. You just go out and do it and let other people tell you about it."
Anderson, Winslow and the Browns could struggle to continue their offensive surge Sunday. Pittsburgh is 4-0 at Heinz Field, where it has outscored opponents 122-26.
"I like to think there's some mystique in that," Tomlin said. "The reality is that the four games we played at home, we stepped into the stadium ready to play."
Pittsburgh has allowed a league-low 98 points overall - 26 fewer than the next-best team. The Steelers, though, insist there's still room for improvement.
"We've got a long way to go," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "But if we play the way we're capable of playing, the sky's the limit."
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
More NFL Football coverage from theSpread.com
- Las Vegas Hilton Contest
- NFL public betting chart
- NFL teams
- NFL standings
- NFL schedule
- NFL injuries
- NFL matchups
- NFL stats
- NFL odds
- NFL news wire
- NFL top stories
- Accuscore NFL predictions
- NFL scoreboard
- Expert NFL Picks
- NFL trends
- Comments and discussion
- Signup for theSpread.com daily newsletter
- NFL Home