Browns vs. Steelers: Storylines to watch

By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer

1. With former owner Randy Lerner and former president Mike Holmgren already gone and replaced by new owner Jimmy Haslam III and CEO Joe Banner, today’s game is probably the last for General Manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur and his staff.

2. The Browns will be without quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy (both suffered shoulder injuries last week), so Thaddeus Lewis will get the start. Lewis, who has never appeared in an NFL regular-season game, spent a majority of the season as the team’s third quarterback and practice-squad player. Backing up Lewis today is newcomer Josh Johnson, who was signed as a free agent Wednesday and had been out of the NFL all season.

3. With the Browns out of playoff contention for weeks and the Steelers eliminated last week in a 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, this is pretty much a meaningless game. The only things at stake are pride and a few statistics. The Browns are aiming for their first season sweep of the rival Steelers since 1988. The Steelers (7-8) are trying to avoid a losing season for the first time since 2003 and for the fourth time in the past 20 years.

4. When the two teams played Nov. 25, the Browns didn’t need to worry about facing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was sidelined with rib and shoulder injuries. Backup Byron Leftwich was also out with a broken ribs, so third-stringer Charlie Batch started. Batch struggled and the visiting Steelers fell 20-14 to the Browns. Now Roethlisberger is back.

5. Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard played at the University of Pittsburgh. … Browns safety Ray Ventrone was born in Pittsburgh and attended Chartiers Valley High School. … Browns quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple was on the Steelers’ staff from 2004-2006. … Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler was on the Browns’ staff from 1999-2002. … Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner was born in Cleveland. … Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell worked for the Browns from 1991-93.


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