CLEVELAND — The Browns (4-6) will be without a starter and key reserve on defense this afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium as they try to stop quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers (4-6) won’t have starting linebacker LaMarr Woodley and starting defensive end Brett Keisel as the AFC North rivals battle to stay in playoff contention.
Cleveland inside linebacker Craig Robertson will miss his first game of the season with a knee sprain suffered last week in the loss to Cincinnati. He took a helmet to the side of the knee, didn’t practice during the week and was listed as doubtful.
Tank Carder will take his place and make the second start of his two-year career – both against Pittsburgh. In addition to his work in the run game, Carder will likely be asked to cover tight end Heath Miller.
The Browns will also be without rookie defensive end Armonty Bryant, who’s become a pass-rushing threat in sub packages. He has two sacks.
His absence could mean more time for Billy Winn.
Woodley, an outside linebacker with five sacks, has a calf injury and is inactive. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie first-round pick Jarvis Jones, who has a sack and 18 tackles.
Keisel (foot), a 12-year veteran, will be replaced by Ziggy Hood.
Woodley and Keisel were listed as questionable on the official injury report.
The other Cleveland inactives are: tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) and offensive linemen Patrick Lewis, Martin Wallace, Garrett Gilkey and Reid Fragel.
Pittsburgh’s other inactives are: quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Derek Moye, rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle), tight end Richard Gordon and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.
** The Browns are looking to sweep AFC North rivals Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh at home for the first time. The Browns have never beat all three in a season.
** No road team has won a North game this season.
** Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert put Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor on notice heading into the game.
Taylor gave left tackle Kelvin Beachum a concussion in last year’s finale with a forearm away from the play. That was just one example of what the teams deemed “dirty” play on both sides.
“It is no motivation once he gets on the field,” Gilbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, referring to Taylor. “He knows what it is, and it is business. It is smash-mouth football, and there’s no talking. It is what it is. We are aware of it, but football is football, and I am pretty sure he is going to get his. It was a dirty play, and he put it on film. Once it is on film, it is out there.”
Taylor said Friday he would stay focused if the Steelers came after him.
“There’s a couple of players tried to go after me or whatever, but it is what it is,” he said. “I’m not going to let that sidetrack me. I’m still going to do what I have to do.
“They can try what they want, but I’m not going to let them get me out of my game.”