After four weeks of uncertainty filling out their depth chart at
quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers have no qualms about
discussing who they’ll have under center this week.
The Cleveland Browns wish they could say the same.
Ben Roethlisberger returns from his four-game suspension Sunday
at Heinz Field, rejoining a Steelers team held together in his
absence by its defense – which could get plenty of chances to make
plays as the Browns are likely to give rookie Colt McCoy his first
Pittsburgh (3-1) got used to Roethlisberger’s off-the-field
activities dominating offseason headlines after his 2006 motorcycle
accident and a 2009 civil suit that alleged he sexually assaulted a
Las Vegas casino employee.
Less than 10 months after that allegation, a college student in
Milledgeville, Ga., accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting
her at a nightclub in March. Though charges were never filed, NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell slapped the two-time Super Bowl winner
with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal
Roethlisberger officially rejoined the team Oct. 4, the day
after the team’s bye week began.
“What had to be said was said a long time ago,” receiver Mike
Wallace said. “He was sorry when it first happened, so we didn’t
need to go over it again or have him apologize. He doesn’t have to
do that. We know that he’s sorry, and we know he’s ready to play
The Steelers certainly showed up ready to play during
Roethlisberger’s suspension, overcoming a passing game that’s last
in the league at 136.0 yards per game behind Dennis Dixon and
Charlie Batch. Pittsburgh, though, leads the league in scoring
defense at 12.5 points per game even after a 17-14 loss to
Baltimore on Oct. 3.
The Steelers are also forcing three turnovers a game, a far cry
from a defense that totaled three takeaways during a five-game
losing streak last season.
The final contest in that skid came against the Browns (1-4).
Roethlisberger had won all 10 meetings versus the Steelers’ AFC
North rivals, but a 13-6 loss in Cleveland on Dec. 10 all but
erased any chance Pittsburgh would have of defending its Super Bowl
“They really got after us. We never want to make excuses, but we
really just didn’t play good football,” Roethlisberger said. “…
Point blank, we just couldn’t do anything on offense.”
The Steelers defense is expecting Cleveland to be uttering
similar frustrations Sunday. With Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace
nursing high ankle sprains suffered against Atlanta on Sunday, the
Browns left the 20-10 loss with McCoy as their only healthy
Cleveland signed veteran Brett Ratliff, who has spent time in
coach Eric Mangini’s system before, but all indications are that
McCoy will start with Delhomme and Wallace unlikely to practice
“Everybody’s got to get their feet wet at some point. … It’s
only the Steelers, right? Coming off a bye week? They don’t blitz
much,” Mangini joked.
The last game McCoy started was Texas’ 2010 BCS championship
game loss to Alabama, when he left in the first quarter with a
He’s plenty familiar with the Steelers’ schemes, though.
“I’ve watched them play for a long time,” McCoy said. “They’ve
won Super Bowls. They’ve got tremendous players – (James) Harrison,
Polamalu, (LaMarr) Woodley. They’re all good. Casey Hampton went to
UT so I know him. I have all the respect in the world for those
guys. We know what challenge we have ahead of us.”
For their part, the Steelers don’t want to take McCoy
He’s got a tremendous opportunity to start off with a great
story,” Polamalu said. ”We have all been in this situation where
we’ve been underdogs or been favored and it doesn’t turn out the
way everyone thinks it will. With all the lessons we learned in the
past, we could have our hands full.”
The Browns’ upset of Pittsburgh in December included a heavy
dose of a wildcat offense with Joshua Cribbs under center, a
strategy Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t be surprised to see
“That’s usually the nature of the league and that’s what makes
it so awesome,” Tomlin said. “When you show areas of deficiency,
usually you are going to continue to see those challenges until you
fix it. We didn’t fix it in that football game.”
Gaining any yards on the ground against Pittsburgh won’t be
easy. The Steelers boast the NFL’s No. 1 rush defense (62.3 ypg),
and they’ve held Michael Turner, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice to a
combined 2.2 yards per carry.
Peyton Hillis doesn’t have a career resume that measures up to
those players, but he ran for 246 yards in games against Baltimore
and Cincinnati in Week 3 and 4. Hillis, however, managed 28 yards
versus the Falcons after injuring a quad in practice leading up to
Cleveland doesn’t have much experience behind him, either. The
Browns dealt backup Jerome Harrison to Philadelphia for fellow
running back Mike Bell on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh has won its last six home games in the series by an
average of 15.2 points.