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Steelers-Browns matchup of the day: Tuesday

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Dec. 27, 2011 @ 8:43 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Steelers-Browns game: 

Browns' running game vs. Steelers' run defense

In the first meeting between these teams on Dec. 8, the Browns rushed for 98 yards on 30 carries. That averages out to 3.3 yards per attempt, which is nothing to be excited about as is. In reality, it was worse than that. Although the Browns' Chris Ogbonnaya broke a 28-yard run on a third-down draw in the second quarter, that play was the exception, not the rule, when it came to the Browns' running game. 

Neither Peyton Hillis (10-25-0) nor Montario Hardesty (11-24-0) had much success rushing against the Steelers' defense. Neither back had a rush of longer than eight yards. On Cleveland's first drive, with the Browns facing a 3rd-and-goal at the Pittsburgh one, Hillis was turned away on a rush off left guard. Later, with the Browns at the Pittsburgh five in the fourth quarter, Hardesty was tackled for a loss of a yard on first down. The Browns would only go backward from there on the drive.

Look for Hillis to get most of the work in the rematch between these clubs. Hillis rushed for a season-best 112 yards on 24 carries in the loss to Baltimore on Sunday. While he's never found much rushing room in his three games vs. Pittsburgh as a Brown (28 carries, 79 yards), he's fought injuries in each of those games.

The 6-2, 250-pound Hillis is a bruising inside runner. A free agent at season's end, Hillis wouldn't hurt his market value with productive games vs. two vaunted defenses in back-to-back games.

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