CLEVELAND -- Just when opposing defenders think they have the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playmakers figured out, they have the ability to switch course and keep the ball moving down the field and into the end zone for touchdowns.
Whether it be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger using his size and uncommon ability to absorb contact and extend plays, wide receiver Antonio Brown streaking down the field and creating windows to throw into by getting behind defenders and running back Le’Veon Bell sprinting through the front seven, the Steelers are a multi-faceted offense able to challenge any and all defenses.
“Most teams try to be built this way,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “They try to have obviously a triangle attack, whether it is the running back, tight end and wide receiver. Obviously, you have to have a quarterback. They have been doing it for quite a while over there with Ben behind the center and Antonio and now, Le’Veon.”
Roethlisberger has made quite the career for himself in the National Football League, and much of that success has come at the expense of a team in his home state, the Cleveland Browns.
In 22 games against the Browns, including 21 starts, Roethlisberger has guided the Steelers to a 20-2 record and posted a 97.1 quarterback rating.
Against the Browns, Roethlisberger has completed 389 of his 623 attempts (62.44 percent) for 5,323 yards and 35 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Despite being sacked 36 times for 232 lost yards, Roethlisberger has averaged 8.54 yards per attempt.
Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 300 yards against the Browns on five occasions, but three of those have come in the last four meetings, and the 379-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 30-9 win at home last season came when he was supposed to be on the shelf due to injury.
“You go back and you look at his history of what he has been athletically and being, I believe, a shortstop in baseball, a point guard in basketball and obviously a quarterback,” Horton said. “I think people were shocked by his athleticism. Probably for his size, no, I don’t think there has been a guy [like him].”
With the Browns ranking near the bottom of almost every major defensive category and holding a franchise-worst 0-10 record to start the season, Horton believes the team can begin their reversal of fortunes with a strong performance in the AFC North Division game.
“We try to tell our players about the AFC North: ‘If you can compete and win here, you can win on the biggest stage because people in this division have won Super Bowls,’” Horton said. “You play them twice a year. You know what the competition is like home and away.
“I don’t think our guys are in awe or afraid. We want to get where they are at, so the competition is great for us. I love being in this division because really, it is, year in and year out, probably one of the better divisions in the league as you go through and watch the teams play. It gives us a standard to kind of measure ourselves to where we want to be.”