Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Steelers-Browns game.
Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. the Browns' run defense
The Browns held Mendenhall relatively in check in the first meeting between the teams in Week Six, limiting him to 84 yards on 27 carries in Pittsburgh's 28-10 win. However, he did break loose for a 25-yard run in the second quarter after it appeared he would be stopped for a minimal gain on a run up the middle. While the Browns were able to impede his progress initially, they could not bring him down, and he was able to find running room to his left, bursting between ILB Eric Barton and CB Eric Wright to the left sideline, where he was finally brought down by his own teammate, TE David Johnson. In the second half, Mendenhall would score a two-yard TD off left guard to give Pittsburgh a 21-3 lead.
The 5-10, 225-pound Mendenhall has lacked running room at times this season, and he's broken the 100-yard rushing barrier only once since Week Three. However, he's one of the AFC's more talented backs, with very good speed and strength. He also deploys a spin move he's used with success. Mendenhall takes care of the ball (two fumbles in 332 touches) and has been dependable, having not missed a game this season. The third-year back from Illinois has rushed for 1,237 yards and 11 TDs on 310 carries, all career highs.
The Steelers are most likely to run off the right side and have done so with success, especially behind ORT Flozell Adams. The Browns started rookie Travis Ivey at left end in place of Brian Schaefering in Week 16; whomever the Browns start on that side must be stout vs. the Steelers' running game.
Overall, the Browns are surrendering 131.3 rushing yards per game. Opponents have attempted 475 rushes and are gaining 4.1 yards per carry vs. Cleveland.