What a difference a week makes. This time last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were everyone’s the hot pick to potential dethrone the New England Patriots in the postseason. This week, they are no longer in control of their playoff hopes. But, they still have a chance.
First they must beat the 3 and 12 Cleveland Browns. The last time the Steelers and Browns met, Pittsburgh won 30-9. You may remember that game for Ben Roethlisberger coming in off the bench to replace Landry Jones when he injured his ankle. Roethlisberger went on to have the best day by a quarterback in a relief role; 379 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Martavis Bryant caught 6 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, while Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.
But, that game will also be remembered for the Black & Yellow defense giving up a career high 372 passing yards to Johnny Manziel—I guess that’s the norm this season, they just gave up a career day to Ryan Mallett last Sunday. And, Russell Wilson threw for a career high 345 yards on them in Seattle back on November 29th.
The Steelers secondary looked more vulnerable last week than it has since playing against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots opening night. The third worse pass defense, giving up 278.2 yards per game, is the key to this team keeping their season alive. They’ll also need to watch for Manziel using his legs. Against the Kansas City Chiefs he rushed for a Cleveland Browns franchise record for a quarterback 108 yards.
But forget the numbers, it’s about pride. As we saw against Baltimore, scoring 30+ points a game isn’t as easy for the offense as it appeared during their franchise record 6 consecutive games streak.
Pittsburgh is 10 point favorites at Cleveland with the over-under at 47. A win will also mean the 6th 10+ win season in Coach Mike Tomlin’s 9 year tenure. In their last meeting at First Energy Stadium on October 12th, 2014, the Browns beat the Steelers 31-10.
Steelers Nation will also be keeping one eye on the New York Jets-Buffalo Bills matchup. A Jets win means the Steelers will miss the playoffs for the 4th time under Tomlin, regardless if they beat Cleveland. Both games kickoff at 1 p.m.