Loss to Ravens leaves Steelers struggling for playoff berth

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The Steelers had the chance of moving into the drivers’ seat in the AFC North with a victory over their arch rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, but after teasing everyone with a great start, they settled into playing their second straight horrible game. Offensively that is.

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FIRST QUARTER SCORE—Steeler quarterback Byron Leftwich sprints into the end zone for a 31 yard touchdown run in the 1st quarter which would be the Steelers only touchdown in the 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. (Courier Photo/William McBride)

Now in order to keep hope alive they must beat the lowly Cleveland Browns, 2-8, who have played everyone close, then travel to Baltimore.

The 13-10 loss at Heinz Field Sunday Night loss dropped them two games behind the Ravens, 8-2, and just one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals, 5-5, who defeated the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cleveland as usual is rebuilding with a young team which has played great defense, but struggled offensively under the leadership of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Actually in the past two games the Steelers have resembled the Browns.

Ben Roethlisberger will not be available for the Browns game, which leaves it in the hands of Byron Leftwich again, maybe. He appeared to hurt himself after his touchdown run, but for some reason stayed in the game. So there may be some questions as to who will start, Leftwich or Charlie Batch.

Even though Batch has performed very well when called upon, for some reason the team is reluctant to call upon him. Leftwich looked very mobile and threw the ball very well in the first quarter but for some reason, probably because of the injury, he wasn’t able to get the ball to his receivers, not even big target Heath Miller the rest of the game.

If for some reason Leftwich can’t go, the Steelers will have a hard time finding a backup to Charlie Batch. And it will be Leftwich’s last go around, because the Steelers can’t afford to have a backup who stays hurt all the time. It’s somewhat of a surprise they have stayed with him as long as they have.

The defense has been playing great, especially the secondary, even without Troy Polamalu. Will Allen has been outstanding in Polamalu’s place. The only thing they haven’t been doing is scoring points. Maybe against Cleveland they’ll need to do just that because the offense has been terrible.

Weeden has looked good as a rookie and may finally give the Browns a quality quarterback for the future but currently has a 70.3 quarterback rating, and is completing only 55.3 percent of his passes. The running game is OK with Trent Richardson who has 670 yards, for a below par 3.7 average per carry. He also leads the team in receptions with 37 for 289 yards. The top wide receiver is Greg Little who has 30 catches for 354 yards. Richardson had 95 yards on 28 carries in the 23-20 Dallas loss.

On paper Cleveland should be an easy game but in reality they have played everyone tough, and should have beaten Dallas.

Leftwich finished the Ravens game 18 of 39 for 201 yards, with Jonathan Dwyer leading the ground game with 55 yards on 12 carries and Rashard Mendenhall, returning from an injury, had 33 yards on 11 carries.

The Steelers have to win this game to stay in contention for a playoff spot as a wild card team. They are currently battling the Indianapolis Colts, 6-4, and the Bengals 5-5. But there are several teams in the AFC with 4-6 records who could move ahead of the Steelers if they falter against the Browns and the Ravens in Baltimore.

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