1. At full strength for just the second game, the Browns’ defensive front — which had a season-high seven sacks last week against the Dallas Cowboys — should be salivating at the prospect of facing Pittsburgh Steelers third-string quarterback Charlie Batch. Steelers starter Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, ribs) and backup Byron Leftwich (ribs) are sidelined, making Batch, 38, the starter. Look for the Steelers to rely more heavily on the running game.
2. The Steelers rank first in total defense, limiting opponents to 259.1 yards per game, and are first against the pass (169.3) thanks in large part to the standout play of cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen. They could make the afternoon tough on Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has struggled with his accuracy. In last week’s overtime loss to the Cowboys, several of Weeden’s passes sailed high.
3. The Steelers’ run defense is nothing for the Browns to overlook either. The Steelers rank fourth against the run, giving up an average of 89.8 yards. That puts a lot on the shoulders of Browns running back Trent Richardson, who struggled against the Cowboys. Richardson gained 95 yards on 28 carries but was limited to 33 yards on 12 rushes after halftime.
4. The Browns’ defense needs to rebound after being flagged for 10 penalties, each one leading to a first down, in the loss to the Cowboys. That is particularly true in the secondary, which accounted for seven flags. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) is out. Joe Haden expects to return despite a sore oblique that had him out last week. Buster Skrine said he’ll play despite suffering a concussion last week.
5. With the Steelers’ defense playing so well but their offense beat up, today’s game could come down to a big play on special teams. And what better player to lead the way than veteran returner Josh Cribbs? Cribbs was vocal once again last week about wanting more involvement in the Browns’ offense. But this week, Cribbs’ mark might be best left with a big return that sets up a touchdown or even a return for a touchdown of his own.