1:00 PM ET, November 25, 2012
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
The Pittsburgh Steelers hope two familiar faces can help them bounce back from their first defeat in more than a month.
Pittsburgh (6-4) has a firm grasp on a wild-card spot, but there is certainly reason for concern as injuries continue to mount. Already without safety Troy Polamalu, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss a second straight game with a sprained right shoulder and dislocated first rib.
Backup QB Byron Leftwich is also out after suffering a broken rib Sunday night when the Steelers' four-game winning streak ended with a 13-10 loss to Baltimore.
Enter the 37-year-old Batch, who is 5-2 while starting in place of Roethlisberger over the last decade. He was an economical 15 of 22 for 208 yards in a 27-0 win over St. Louis in his last start Dec. 24.
Batch was 13 of 19 for 150 yards and ran for a score in his only previous start versus Cleveland, a 34-21 Pittsburgh home win Nov. 13, 2005.
"Charlie's a great quarterback, and he's also been in the league for some time now," Pittsburgh cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "He knows the offense upside down (inside out), so if we have to rely on Charlie, we know he could get in there and win games."
If receiver Antonio Brown misses a third straight game with a bad ankle, Batch could find himself throwing often to Burress. The 35-year-old receiver signed with the Steelers on Tuesday to help a receiving corps that is down to three healthy bodies.
Burress, who had two 1,000-yard seasons while with Pittsburgh from 2000-2004, caught 45 passes for 612 yards and tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns for the New York Jets in 2011.
"He's in really good physical condition based on the workout I saw (Tuesday)," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight at break points and obviously he's no stranger to football."
While Tomlin does not expect offensive coordinator Todd Haley to change the playbook much with Batch and Burress in the mix, the Steelers must execute better on third down after going 5 for 17 against the Ravens. Pittsburgh has converted on 49 percent of its third-down chances with Roethlisberger on the field.
The Steelers also could rely more on running the ball against a Cleveland defense that ranks 24th with 125.3 rushing allowed yards per game.
After missing four straight contests with an Achilles' injury, Rashard Mendenhall ran 11 times for 33 yards last weekend. He hasn't gained more than 84 in his last six games versus Cleveland.
Teammate Jonathan Dwyer, who has a team-leading 410 rushing yards, is also expected to see time.
Tomlin hopes his team's stout defense will take some of the pressure of the offense, which has scored one TD since Roethlisberger was injured in third quarter of a 16-13 win over Kansas City on Nov. 12. The Steelers are first in the NFL with 259.1 yards allowed and fifth at 19.0 points given up per contest.
Pittsburgh has won 22 of 24 against the Browns and outscored them 96-31 during a four-game winning streak in the series, with Cleveland managing two touchdowns in those contests. The Steelers have taken two straight and 13 of 15 in Cleveland.
The Browns (2-8) found the end zone twice last Sunday but blew a 13-point halftime lead en route to a 23-20 overtime loss at Dallas. Since 2010, Cleveland has lost an NFL-leading 18 games by seven or fewer points, including five this season.
"We just have to find a way to finish," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We have a whole locker room full of winners. This whole organization is full of winners. We just have to put it all together and do it."
Brandon Weeden threw a pair of TD passes to Ben Watson and was not intercepted while Trent Richardson just missed his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 95. However, the Browns committed two penalties for 50 yards on Dallas' tying drive in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland is 0-5 this season without star cornerback Joe Haden, who missed last week's game with an oblique injury. Haden, however, returned to practice Wednesday and could play Sunday.
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• Balance important for Pittsburgh: The Steelers are talented offensively and are capable of pounding the rock on the ground while also fielding capable targets in the passing game. The Browns have been inconsistent defensively (yielding 125 yards on the ground and 249 yards in the air per contest) but held Dallas to just 63 yards rushing in Week 11. Look for offensive coordinator Todd Haley to design a game plan with high-percentage passes as well as a physical ground attack between the tackles to control tempo on the road.
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|Avg Points Allowed||19.1||22.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||PIT|
|Rush Yds Allowed||PIT|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Pittsburgh leads 22-3|
|Jan 1, 2012||PIT 13, @CLE 9|
|Dec 8, 2011||PIT 14, CLE 3|
|Jan 2, 2011||PIT 41, @CLE 9|
|Oct 17, 2010||PIT 28, CLE 10|
|Dec 10, 2009||PIT 6, @CLE 13|
|Oct 18, 2009||PIT 27, CLE 14|
|Dec 28, 2008||PIT 31, CLE 0|
|Sep 14, 2008||PIT 10, @CLE 6|
|Nov 11, 2007||PIT 31, CLE 28|
|Sep 9, 2007||PIT 34, @CLE 7|
|Dec 7, 2006||PIT 27, CLE 7|
|Nov 19, 2006||PIT 24, @CLE 20|
|Dec 24, 2005||PIT 41, @CLE 0|
|Nov 13, 2005||PIT 34, CLE 21|
|Nov 14, 2004||PIT 24, @CLE 10|
|Oct 10, 2004||PIT 34, CLE 23|
|Nov 23, 2003||PIT 13, @CLE 6|
|Oct 5, 2003||PIT 13, CLE 33|
|Jan 5, 2003||PIT 36, CLE 33|
|Nov 3, 2002||PIT 23, @CLE 20|
|Sep 29, 2002||PIT 16, CLE 13|
|Jan 6, 2002||PIT 28, CLE 7|
|Nov 11, 2001||PIT 15, @CLE 12|
The Steelers used five or more rushers at the highest rate over the first six weeks of the season, but have since done so near the league average. Sending five-plus less often has helped maximize the impact of the rush, with the Steelers allowing a league-low 34.1 completion percentage with such pressure over the last five weeks of the season.[+]
Steelers Defense Sending 5+ Pass Rushers - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information