Browns at Steelers -- Week 17

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Spread: Steelers by 4.5

Forecast: Snow flurries and a high of 30 degrees. December Steelers weather.

Records: Browns (5-10; AFC North 2-3), Steelers (7-8; AFC North 2-3)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings: November 25, 2012: Browns 20, Steelers 14; January 1, 2012: Steelers 13, Browns 9. Series record: Steelers lead 64-57. (Steelers have won 16 of the last 18.)

What matters: Good question… what matters? For only the second time in Mike Tomlin’s five seasons, for only the third time in the past eight seasons and the fourth time in 12, the Steelers aren’t heading into the postseason. So what do they have to play for? A .500 record, something they’ve managed for eight consecutive seasons. The Steelers, mostly wretched for their first 40 seasons, have grown accustomed to the sweet taste of success.

Who matters: So many Steelers could use a strong finish. Ben Roethlisberger is 0-3 since his return from a shoulder injury, and the past two losses rest squarely on him -- with interceptions in the waning moments that quickly turned into game-winning field goals by Dallas and Cincinnati. Inside linebacker Larry Foote and offensive tackle Max Starks conceivably could be playing their final Steelers games unless they get re-signed in the offseason. Wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall also have contracts set to expire, and what of their future? And few expect nose tackle Casey Hampton to return, even though he had a solid season at nose tackle (with backup Steve McLendon hardly spelling him), and he won the Chief Award last week for the most media-friendly Steelers player.

Key matchups: Does it really matter? The biggest nemesis of the 2012 Steelers has been themselves. Turnovers cost them the past two games, at Dallas and in the playoff-riding loss at home to Cincinnati. There were fourth-quarter meltdowns, abnormal for a Pittsburgh team, against Oakland and Tennessee and Dallas and Cincinnati and Baltimore at home. But if the Browns play without Trent Richardson and with both a No. 3 quarterback and a banged-up secondary, the Steelers will be expected to try to capitalize on those areas.

Injuries of note: Cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) and Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller (knee surgery) are out, and that’s a sizeable loss to the defense and offense. The offense is further handicapped this week by a deep muscle injury in the thigh area that has been bugging receiver Mike Wallace, which likely will keep him out. He may well have played his last game as a Steeler; he's looking for big money, and the Steelers may not want to pay it. Also out this week are dime back/special teamer Curtis Brown (ankle), backup offensive tackle Mike Adams (ankle) and recently promoted reserve linebacker Marshall McFadden (abdomen). Listed as probable for the Browns were safety Troy Polamalu (not injury related), guard David DeCastro (hamstring) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee), who started and played last week despite being injured.

Inside stuff: The Steelers haven’t been swept by Cleveland since 1988. That was back in the Marty Schottenheimer-Bernie Kosar era -- almost a quarter-century ago. With No. 3 Browns quarterback Thaddeus Lewis making his first NFL start and injuries ruling out quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy as well as running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Sheldon Brown, Cleveland comes in severely strapped. Will the Steelers, as they did against San Diego, come out flat and lackadaisical as a result?

Connections: Browns new owner Jimmy Haslam started this season as a Steelers minority owner. Cleveland quarterback coach Mark Whipple was Roethlisberger’s mentor with the Steelers when the quarterback first entered the NFL.

Stats you should know: If this game whittles down to a duel at two paces back and one over, the kickers have been spot on this season -- Cleveland’s Phil Dawson has missed once, on a tipped kick, and Shaun Suisham had just one miss (from 50-plus) until last week, when he muffed one on a bad snap and another from a beyond-his-range, 56-yarder. . . In this series against its neighbor 125 miles away, the Steelers have won eight consecutive, 12 of the past 13, and they've won 19 of the past 21 in Pittsburgh.

Looking ahead: Beyond filling the special-teams coaching vacancy he created in the preseason, will Mike Tomlin make any other coaching changes in the offseason? And how much more rebuilding will the Steelers’ roster undergo?

Prediction: Steelers 17, Browns 10.

Follow Steelers reporter Chuck Finder on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @cfinder