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Opponent Profile: Browns Hope To End Skid Against Steelers

By Christina Rivers

The Cleveland Browns are having a less than spectacular season in 2015. After a 31-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, the 2-7 team will face AFC North foe Pittsburgh with no decision made as to who their starting quarterback will be and trying to determine how to play a full sixty minute game.

The Browns have struggled of late in the latter half of games. It's something head coach Mike Pettine wants to address. "It is a 60-minute game and we have to find a way to play at a high level for the entire time," Pettine said. The Browns are on a four-game streak of losses and Pettine is spending time with his coaching staff diagnosing the issue before they face the Steelers on Sunday. "The brutal facts are that we are a 2-7 football team and that is not acceptable...I am very confident in the team and that we can show improvement in our performances moving forward."

Will Johnny Manziel run the offense?

Josh McCown has been out for Cleveland because of rub and shoulder injuries, giving Manziel his second start against Cincinnati. In the first half of the game, he threw for 128 yards but only threw an additional 40 yards in the second half. Manziel struggled to run the offense, something that concerns Pettine. McCown's status is uncertain leaving Petting to say that the team would make a decision based on the player that gives the Browns the "best opportunity to win".

Heading into week ten, Cleveland has created just 3016 offensive yards (2275 through the air, 741 on the ground). Their running game has been a question mark with Isaiah Crowell only having a single touchdown and 333 yards rushing. The result has been that the Browns offense has become lop-sided, favoring the pass to earn the yardage and points needed to win games.

Browns defense

Cleveland has seen themselves lose big yardage to their opponents this season, resulting in an inability to keep points off of the scoreboard. St. Louis Rams rookie Todd Gurley ran up yards on them in week eight and they are ranked last in the league in run defense after giving up an average of 147.6 yards rushing per game. The pass defense is ranked a little better (21st) but is still allowing an average of 254.0 yards passing per game.

The defense has been hurting themselves in recent games. Penalties have been an issue that has killed several successful stops. Pettine said self-inflicted wounds were resulting in points for their opponents. They've struggled to efficiently cover tough tight ends, like Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas, in recent weeks and the result has been five touchdowns.

Players to watch

Karlos Dansby is always a danger to offenses. The inside linebacker has yet to record a sack in 2015, but leads the team in overall tackles and has two forced fumbles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

On offense, the Steelers will have to play tight defense on tight end Gary Barnidge who leads all Browns receivers with 42 receptions, 602 yards and six touchdowns. The Steelers have faced talented tight ends all season with limited success.

Browns versus Steelers outlook

With both teams riddled with injuries, this game is in no way a sure win for the team with the best overall record right now. Both offenses are unsure who will run their offense or how that offense will respond to the guy who enters as quarterback. Both defenses have had some great stands only to watch a team they had control of come surging back and win. In week nine, the Browns had three safeties on the injury list: Jordan Poyer (shoulder), Tashaun Gipson (ankle) and Donte Whitner (concussion). They were without cornerback Joe Haden due to a concussion. Those injuries may be more concerning than the lack of offensive production against the Steelers with Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller to face. Pittsburgh will be without Ben Roethlibserger and Le'Veon Bell. The needle is swinging in Pittsburgh's favor, but the Browns would love nothing more than to end their four-game skid against the Steelers.

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on

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