Tag Archives: Cleveland Browns

2017 NFL Rookie Most Likely to…

The 2017 NFL Draft Class was full of star power and several of those members will light up the League real soon. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

The dawn of the 2017 NFL Season has arrived and a new crop of college stars are preparing to make their mark in pro football.

Teams put a premium on defense this past draft. 131 defensive players were selected to 118 offensive. 34 of those players were cornerbacks, the most of any single position, 5 in the first round. If you combine the 3 Safeties, defensive back was the most selected unit in the draft. In all 67 defensive backs were picked in 2017.

I’ve done this exercise the two previous seasons and I’ve hit on some already, some are close to happening, and I’ve missed VERY BADLY on one. My apologies to my fellow Ohio State Alum Joey Bosa.

As with any draft in every sport, the situation you’re drafted to is more important than when you’re selected. It’s fun and difficult to predict how these guys will affect their team’s success or failures. So, here’s how I see several of this year’s crop of rookies careers panning out.

Most likely to lead the NFL in passing yards…. Patrick Mahomes (10th overall pick/Kansas City Chiefs). Andy Reid and his staff moved up to select the Texas Tech QB. Everyone knows the Red Raiders offense is a hyper passing scheme that tends to lead to video game numbers that doesn’t necessarily transition to the NFL. But, Mahomes should be different because he’s no “check down Charlie” like current Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. Mahomes has the arm strength to push the ball down the field and Reid, a west coast offense guy, who’s called plays for Donovan McNabb when the Philadelphia Eagles went to four NFC title games and a Super Bowl, Brett Favre when he won three consecutive NFL MVPs and Michael Vick when he revived his career after a stint in prison. Mahomes has a real QB whisperer in his ear.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing yards…. Leonard Fournette (4th overall pick/Jacksonville Jaguars). He will play with a quarterback, in Blake Bortles, that has led the league in turnovers with 63 since entering the League in 2014. Bortles struggled to hold on to the starting job in the preseason, with Coach Marrone going as far to say he preferred to not have Blake pass the ball.

The Jags coaching staff already believes in smash mouth defense and a ball control offense.  In 2016 the Jags running game averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which was 17th in the NFL, and 101.9 yards per game that was 22nd. Fournette alone will improve those numbers. He’ll have to if Bortles can’t shake the yips.

Most likely to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs… Taywon Taylor (3rd round, 72nd pick/Titans). The ball is like a magnet to his hands. During his senior season with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers he broke and set the school’s single season record for receptions and yards with 98 catches for 1,730 yards to go along with 17 TDs. He finished his career with a school record 253 catches for 4,234 yards and 41 TDs.

The Titans have a strong running game with DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Marcus Marriota running the read-option. What they need is a threat in the passing game and Taylor will provide just that.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks… T.J. Watt (30th overall pick/Pittsburgh Steelers). First reason, it is in his blood lines. He’s a Watt. Second, he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 3-4 scheme that is only successful when it’s LBs blitz the QB. He got his first sack on Pittsburgh’s first defensive trip on the field in their first preseason game, he followed that up with another sack on the first play of their second defensive drive. At Wisconsin he collected 11.5 sacks in the 27 games he played. It’s what he does. Third, he’ll have the likes of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt occupying offensive linemen to allow him to get free, plus with Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams and Bud Dupree playing alongside him, offenses won’t be scheming to stop Watt. Initially.

Most likely to lead the NFL in turnovers… Deshone Kizer (2nd round, Pick 52nd/Cleveland Browns). This organization has been snake bitten at the quarterback position since they returned to the League in 1999. Nearly 30 have started a game for the Browns in the last 18 seasons.

Cleveland is in the midst of a fire sale and don’t have much around Kizer at the skills positions. Their leading receiver from 2016, Terrelle Pryor, is in Washington and their second leading receiver, tight end Gary Barnidge, is still on the free agent market. The current leading receiver from 2016 is running back Duke Johnson Junior who had 52 catches for 514 yards.

Coach Hue Jackson has made the decision to start Kizer week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Therefore his growing pains are going to start early and he may very well have to shoulder the entire offense load. That’s not a good thing. Cleveland’s coaching staff and management is willing to suffer through his development, while investing in his future. He may fulfill this prediction of mine in season number one.

He will have to rely on guys who may not be on the roster next season as the team goes through a rebuilding period. It’s safe to say the turnovers will pile up, even it they aren’t entirely his fault.

Most likely to lead the League in interceptions (takeaways)…. Tre’Davious White (27th overall pick/Buffalo Bills). He hails from DBU better known as LSU, the same school that brought the NFL Patrick Petersen, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne to name a few. The Bills still have a strong front seven that will put pressure on opposing QBs causing them to force some passes where they shouldn’t. Plus he plays in the AFC East where outside of Tom Brady, the quarterback play is VERY shoddy.

Most likely to be Offensive Rookie of the Year…. Christian McCaffrey (8th overall pick/Carolina Panthers). The Carolina Panthers will be attempting to lessen the workload on Cam Newton after his off-season shoulder surgery. Thus, they drafted McCaffrey in the first round to make use of his versatility. The Stanford alum is an all-purpose back that can contribute in the running, passing and return game. He’s going to get the most opportunities of any offensive player in this draft class.

Most likely to be Defensive Player of the Year…

Linebackers and defensive ends have dominated this award. Basically, pass rushers. The guy I really like is San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster out of Alabama (31st overall pick/San Francisco 49ers). He never should have fallen this far, but, character issues hurt him.

The Niners used their two first round picks on defense (DT Solomon Thomas 3rd overall pick). While everyone is expecting new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan to rev up the offense, the San Fran D has drastically declined since the days competing with Seattle for the NFC West crown under Jim Harbaugh. Foster will rack up the tackles on a team that was the 32nd ranked defense last season. If he has the numbers and as a unit they continue to climb to a top ten team, many voters will point to him as the catalyst.

Most likely to be steal of the draft… Jake Butt (5th round, 145th pick/Denver Broncos) a nasty knee injury in Michigan’s bowl game is the reason he fell this far. Coming into the 2016 College football season, he was a projected first round pick. It was between him and Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who was selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as to which was the better all-around tight end.

Denver has young QBs who will need a safety blanket in the middle of the field. He will be that. Plus, he will draw lots of one-on-one coverage with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders stretching defenses out deep down field.

Most likely to be a perennial All-Pro…. Ryan Ramczyk (32nd overall pick/New Orleans Saints)He comes from Wisconsin where they churn out as many All-Pro offensive linemen as the state does butter. Not really, but you get it. Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys and Kraig Urbik of the Miami Dolphins to name a few.

Ramczyk will be charged with keeping Drew Brees up right so he can continue to pass for 5,000+ yards a season. One of the easiest ways to make an All-Pro team is to block for a QB that puts up historic numbers or a RB that is a top five rusher

Most likely to be NFL MVP…. Only six non-QBs have won the award in the last twenty seasons. The six players were running backs and one of them (Barry Sanders, 1997) shared it with Brett Favre. Therefore it’s not going out on a limb for me to predict a QB from the 2017 class will one day etch their name on the trophy.

With that being said, I’m going with DeShaun Watson (12th overall pick/Houston Texans). He’s a better version of Dak Prescott. No disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and reigning Offensive Player of the Year. But, Watson has the same intangibles to lead a team and a better skill set. He’s shown it on the biggest stage in back-to-back National Championship games against a vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide team. His college coach Dabo Sweeney said he has some “Michael Jordan in him.” It’s hard to disagree after what we’ve already seen. The Texans are tailor-made for him to step in and lead them to glory.

Most likely to be Super Bowl MVP… Once again I’m going with DeShaun Watson. He has the number one ranked defense. The only thing that has been missing from the Houston Texans over the last three seasons has been a competent QB. Watson is more than competent and very capable of leading a team as he showed in college at Clemson. He’s a big gamer and his abilities will be even more amplified by a coach that’s already work with arguably the greatest QB of All-Time, Tom Brady.

 

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Cleveland is the Remedy

Bell gained 201 yards from scrimmage vs. the Browns (146 rushing, 55 receiving). Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Saying the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a must win situation against the Cleveland Browns isn’t an exaggeration. It doesn’t matter that Cleveland is the only winless team in the NFL at now 0-11. It doesn’t matter that the Dallas Cowboys beat the Baltimore Ravens, who have the tie-breaker for the lead in the AFC North over the Steelers.

With a 4-game losing streak, and most likely needing to win the division to get into the playoffs, a loss would’ve sent this team into a greater tailspin that would have led to greater unwelcome ramifications for the coaching staff and players. I don’t care that it was the Browns, they needed something to feel better about themselves.

The smartest decision of the day was the Steelers electing to kickoff after winning the pre-game coin toss. This defense was under fire after giving up the win to the Dallas Cowboys with under a minute remaining after the offense appeared to have won it. It was imperative that defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s unit got off to a good start against the 28th ranked total offense and 30th ranked scoring offense, to gain some confidence without their best defender Cam Heyward, who is lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Even after allowing a 38-yard catch to Terrelle Pryor to convert a 3rd down, Artie Burns’ second career pick on 3rd and 17 to end the drive 3-plays later was the right dose of medicine needed to get this much maligned unit moving in the right direction.

The second drive began with a sack by Stephon Tuitt, his 2nd of the season and ended with another sack by Javon Hargrave six plays later. On the day, they finished with a season high 8 sacks, one of which led to a fumble recovered for a touchdown by Hargrave. The 8 sacks is the tied for the most in the NFL this season. They came into the game with only 13 sacks in 9 games, which was tied for dead last with the Oakland Raiders in that category. For only the third time this season they held a team under 300 total yards.

This week’s game ball goes to Stephon Tuitt and Lawrence Timmons. Tuitt had 6 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks, and will need to come close to replicating this performance weekly in the absence of Heyward. Timmons also showed his veteran leadership with 8 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and 3 hits on the QB.

Offensively, it appears Todd Haley has finally realized the best weapon he has, and in my opinion the most lethal in the entire NFL, is running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell had 11 touches (8 rushes, 45 yards; 3 receptions, 34 yards) for 79 of the 87 yards and converted 6 first downs on the first drive that started at their own 4-yard line and ended with a Chris Boswell 32-yard field goal. For the day, Bell finished with 28 carries for 146 yards and a TD, 8 receptions for 55 yards. Using Bell they way they did allowed them to play ball control, and win the time of possession battle 33:58 to 26:02 with 4 drives of over 11 plays. Most importantly, they kept the struggling Pittsburgh defense on the sideline.

But, settling for 3 field goals after two 16-play drives (9:18, 9:28), a 15-play drive (8:02), and struggling to get into the end zone from inside the 5-yard line at the end of the 1st half versus the second worse total defense in the NFL, is still highly concerning. I don’t care what the weather elements, Pittsburgh can’t go 1 of 4 inside the red zone. I don’t need to tell you that’s not going to get it done if they hope to make a playoff run, which is what this teams only focus should be.

However, a win is a win. And right now this team will take them.

Next up, at the Indianapolis Colts (5-5) on Thanksgiving Night. Last season the Steelers beat the Colts 45-10 at Heinz Field on the strength of Roethlisberger’s 24 of 39 for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns performance.

OTHER NOTES

  • Pittsburgh’s 4th sack of the day registered by James Harrison made him the Steelers all-time career sack leader with 77.5, passing fellow #92 Jason Gildon, when he sacked Cody Kessler on 2nd and goal early in the 3rd quarter.
  • Le’Veon Bell passed Jerome Bettis for the fewest games to 5,000 scrimmage yards in Steelers history. It took Bell 42 games, “The Bus” Jerome Bettis did it in 52.
  • Ben Roethlisberger passed Fran Tarkenton and Philip Rivers for 12th and 11th on the all-time completions list in NFL history. He now has 3,704.

Brown continue to set NFL records, he’s the fastest to 600 career receptions. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Antonio Brown set an NFL record for the fewest games (96) to reach 600 career receptions on his 5th reception of the day. Brown had 8 catches for 76 yards against the Browns.

 

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 5, 2016)

Bosa made his long overdue debut with the Chargers and had a career day. Photo Credit: Chargers.com

The highest Buckeye selected in the 2016 draft–3rd overall–made his long awaited debut in week five and appeared to be well worth the wait. Defensive end Joey Bosa lined up for the San Diego Chargers against the rival Oakland Raiders after missing the entire preseason to a contract holdout, and the first four games of the regular season to injury. Bosa had 5 tackles (2 solo) and two sacks in the Chargers 34-31 loss to the Raiders. His fellow rookie, linebacker Joshua Perry, had 3 tackles.

Ezekiel Elliott had another explosive day for the Dallas Cowboys. The 4th overall pick in the 2016 draft rushed for his third consecutive 100+ yard game. Zeke had 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 15 carries. He also added 3 receptions for 37 yards in the ‘Boys 28-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. On the other side, kicker Mike Nugent only score 2 points for the Bengals on two extra points and he missed a 50+ yard field goal.

Elliott tied with Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith for the most consecutive 130+ rushing yard games vs. the Bengals. Photo Credit: Cowboys.com

The week got off to a good start on Tuesday for former Buckeyes with the news that 11-year linebacker A.J. Hawk signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday after being without a team for the first four weeks. Hawk was drafted number 5th overall in 2006 by the Green Bay Packers where he played until 2014 and won a Super Bowl ring (SB XLV). He spent the 2015 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Hawk didn’t register any stats in the Falcons 23-16 upset victory over the previously undefeated defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.

There was supposed to be a prime Scarlet and Gray match up on the field in the trenches in Pittsburgh when the New York Jets faced off against the Steelers; center Nick Mangold versus defensive lineman Cam Heyward. But, both left the game with injury. Heyward left in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return. Mangold left in the second half with a lower leg injury. Meanwhile, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was inactive for the second straight week, while the guy who replaced him at Ohio State, Darron Lee had 4 tackles (4 solo). Lee continues to be New York’s leading tackler on the season. The Steelers won 31-13.

Terrelle Pryor seemed the be only Cleveland Brown to show up in their blowout loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Pryor had 5 catches for 48 yards and 2 rushes for 3 yards, he also had to play quarterback as the starter Cody Kessler and his backup Charlie Whitehurst were both knocked out of the game with injuries. TP was 1 of 3 passing for 5 yards as Cleveland lost 33-13. Special teams ace and U.S. Olympic Rugby player Nate Ebner had 3 tackles for the Patriots in the victory.

Running back Carlos Hyde of the San Francisco 49ers rushed for 78 yards and earned his lead leading 6th rushing touchdown on 22 carries Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals. The self-proclaimed “El Guapo” also caught 6 passes for 36 yards in the Niners 33-21 loss to the Cardinals.

Rookie Wide receiver Braxton Miller of the Houston Texans made his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. He had one catch for 12 yards in the Texans 31-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Linebacker John Simon had 6 tackles (3 solo) for Houston in the loss.

Other OSU Alumni news of note, New York Jets rookie wide receiver Jalin Marshall was inactive for the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while rookie defensive back Eli Apple of the New York Giants missed the Sunday night matchup with the Green Bay Packers with a hamstring injury. Rookies Vonn Bell, Michael Thomas and veteran linebacker James Lauriniatis of the New Orleans Saints were on a bye this week. Their next game is next Sunday versus the Carolina Panthers in Nawlins.

Several Buckeyes hit the field in primetime on Monday Night Football. Ted Ginn Junior, Corey “Philly” Brown, Kurt Coleman, offensive lineman Andrew Norwell of the Carolina Panthers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Charlotte.

The Cleveland Browns Mt. Rushmore

The Browns franchise has been an abomination since returning in 1999, but its long history rivals some of the top teams in NFL history.

The city of Cleveland, thanks to LeBron James and the Cavaliers, finally has their championship after a 52 year drought. But before that period of futility and heartbreaks, “The Land” could very well have been dubbed “Titletown” thanks to the Browns franchise.

From their inception in 1946 to 1964, the Browns won 8 league championships. Four in the All-American Football Conference and another four in the NFL (pre 1970AFL-NFL merger). Overall, they’ve also won 12 conference championships, 13 division titles, while making the playoffs 28 times. Generation Y and millennials may be shocked to hear this news, but it’s true, Cleveland hasn’t always been a “Mistake on the Lake.” Not only have they enjoyed great team success, individually, several players and coaches who have donned the brown and orange have made an indelible mark on pro football. And the following are the four men, who I feel standout the most in their franchise’s history.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Jim Brown (1957-1965) retired as not only the Browns All-Time leading rusher (12,312) a record his still holds 51 years later, but also as the NFL’s All-Time leading rusher; he’s since been passed by Walter Payton, then Emmitt Smith. Brown is often discussed in the “who is the greatest football player ever?” debate. NFL.com rated him number three, while in 2002 Sporting News named him the greatest. The 8-time Pro Bowler and 8-time 1st-team All-Pro led the Browns, and the city of Cleveland, to its last pro sports title in 1964 before LeBron James and the 2016 Cavs knocked off the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. But, back to Brown, number 32 led the League in rushing 8-times and is a member of the NFL’s 1960 All-Decade, 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time teams. The Browns retired his jersey number 32. In 1971, Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Paul Brown (1946-1962) is the Browns all-time leader in wins (158) for a coach and led them to 7 League Championships between the All American Football Conference and the NFL. Coach Brown is a coaching legend at all levels in the state of Ohio and country, winning 5 High School State titles (Massillon), a National title at THE Ohio State (1942) and league titles with the Browns. 3-times he was named NFL Coach of the Year (1957,1969, 1970). Coach Brown is also largely responsible for breaking the race barrier in the NFL, as he brought in several African-American players to play for the franchise. Coach was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Otto Graham (1946-1955) is the Browns career leader in wins (57) and passing touchdowns (174) and he’s second in passing yards (23,584). Graham was under center for seven of the Browns League Championships (4 in the AAFC and 3 in the NFL). The 6’1” 196 pound QB won the NFL MVP three times (1951, 1953, 1955) and was a 5-time Pro Bowl selection and 8-time All-Pro/AAFC performer. He’s a member of the NFL 1950s All-Decade and NFL 75th Anniversary teams. The team retired his jersey number 14 in his honor, although he also wore number 60 until the league change the rule making only lineman eligible to wear those numbers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

Lou Groza (1946-1959; 1961-1967) is Cleveland’s all-time leading scorer with 1,608 points. The 9-time Pro Bowl and 6-time All-Pro selection was apart of all eight Championships with the team, four each in both the AAFC and NFL. “The Toe,” as fans and teammates know him, is a member of the NFL’s 1950’s All-Decade,NFL 50th and 75th Anniversary teams. The award given for best place kicker in Division I college football is named in his honor. The Browns have retired his jersey number 76 and inducted him into their ring of honor. Groza was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

There you have it. Browns fans, is this correct? If not, who’d you like to see? Paul Warfield? Bill Willis? Ozzie Newsome? or Leroy Kelly? Let me know.

Steelers Win Over Browns Defines 2015 Squad

Nothing defines the Pittsburgh Steelers season more than their 28-12 win over the Cleveland Browns in the 2015 regular season finale. This is the summary of the 16 chapter story of the 2015 Steelers.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went 24/36 for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns while connecting with 6 different receivers. But, two interceptions. They were Roethlisberger’s 15th and 16th interceptions of the season, his 7th and 8th in 5 road games. This was his 3rd consecutive game of 2+ interceptions.

Sunday showed the best abd worse of Roethlisberger with 349 yards and 3 TDs, to go with 2 INTs. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

For the game, Pittsburgh turned the ball over 3 times which has been a problem all season. The first 2 turnovers came in the first quarter. A fumble by Antonio Brown after gaining a first down, and  It was both the good and the bad of this team in 60 minutes. One moment they look like the most unstoppable offense in the NFL, the next they look like the team that constantly shoots themselves in the foot.

 

Then there was another key injury, which has been the theme of this team before the season kicked off. DeAngelo Williams, possibly the biggest free agent signing of 2015, went out in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Williams has filled in more than admirably for Le’Veon Bell since leaving the November Cincinnati Bengal game with a season ending knee injury, and began the day 101 yards from 1,000. Very impressive for a backup.

Don’t think I forgot about the defense. Once again an inferior opponent, by the numbers, was able to move the ball at will up the field through the air. Cleveland gained 12 first downs via the pass, and Browns QB Austin Davis passed for 177 yards and rushed for 22 more. Cleveland was able to consistently get into the red zone.

There was also a dropped interception by Mike Mitchell in the first quarter that could’ve given the offense good field position. The Browns won the time of possession 33:57 minutes to 26:03 minutes, and ran 21 more plays than the Steelers (76-55), leaving that struggling defense on the field way too much. A playoff caliber team would score more than 12 points.

And then there’s the special teams. Chris Boswell missed a 48 yard field goal, his 3rd of the season. Missed field goals is a major reason why this team lost at least two games this season, which led to Boswell’s arrival in Pittsburgh to begin with. Thankfully for Steelers Nation he’s been tremendously better–he’s 29 of 32 (91%) for the season–than Josh Scobee, the guy he replaced.

Brown is only player in NFL history with consecutive 125+ catch seasons. Photi Credit: Steelers.com

But there is the positive. The defense sacked Austin Davis 7 times for a loss of 63 yards. They forced 4 turnovers (2 fumbles & 2 interceptions) and held them to 0-5 in the red zone.

Antonio Brown finished the game with 13 receptions for 187 yards and 1 touchdown, his 9th 100+ receiving yards game this season which is the most in franchise history. AB also finishes the regular season as the first player in NFL History with 125+ receptions in consecutive seasons, and 265 receptions, the most ever in the NFL in a 2 year period. The offense converted 8 2-point conversion attempts, which is an NFL record. Another nugget, Roethlisberger is now 19-2 versus the Browns, 9-2 in Cleveland.

The most positive news of the day came from Orchard Park, New York. The Steelers will get to write another chapter next week in the AFC Wild Card round thanks to the Buffalo Bills knocking off the New York Jets 22-17.

Steelers extend theit season with victory over Browns. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Pittsburgh is the 6th seed and will likely face the Cincinnati Bengals in the Queen City. Can the 2015 Steelers duplicate the run of the 2005 Super Bowl XL Champion Steelers? The paths are eerily similar.

Steelers-Browns Preview: It’s About Pride


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.

Steelers-Browns Preview

Pittsburgh is 4-1 vs. Cleveland in the last 5 games.

We all know what happened when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury for 4 games in September. The Steelers went 2-2, and the offense looked like a shell of itself. The only good news about his latest injury, is that Pittsburgh will play the 2-7 Cleveland Browns before heading to the BYE week.

But, since this is a “rivalry game”–even though Pittsburgh has won 4 of the last 5, 8-2 in the last 10, and are 27-6 versus Cleveland since the Browns franchise returned in 1999–this isn’t a guaranteed victory for the Black & Yellow. The Browns won the most recent meeting, 31-10 in First Energy Stadium last October. And, that was with Pro-Bowl QB Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.

With all that being said, this Sunday’s matchup in Heinz Field will be far more interesting than the win-loss records show. Here are a few keys to look forward to in this weekend’s game.

• Cleveland is last in the NFL against the rush. They give up 147.6 yards per game, and have allowed a league high 11 and 4 runs for over 20+ and 40+ yards, respectively.

The Steelers are 5th in the league in rushing, averaging 133.4 yards a game and a league high 13 runs over 20 yards. Although most of that was done with the now injured Le’Veon Bell, his replacement DeAngelo Williams, did significantly contribute to those numbers in the three games he started in the place of Bell this season. Williams is also coming off his best day as a Steeler, 170 yards, 2 touchdowns and 55 receiving yards against the Oakland Raiders. With Landry Jones making his second career start, you can expect to see more Williams.

UPDATE (11/13/15): Johnny Manziel has been announced the starter for Sunday according to several sources. “Johnny Football” is completing only 51.8% of his passes for 561 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 3 games (2 starts) he’s appeared in, in 2015. His passer rating is 42.0.

Browns quarterback Josh McCown is expected to be back at the helm for Cleveland this week after missing last Thursday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. McCown is completing 65% of his passes with a 95.2 passer rating on the season.

The Steelers give up 273 passing yards per game (7th worse in the NFL), and have allowed 30 plays of over 20+ yards, 11 plays over 40+ yards on the season. The Steelers D will need to step it up to avoid losing to another NFL bottom cellar dweller like Kansas City Chiefs.

• While Landry Jones is 0-1 as a starter (and threw 3 interceptions in that game versus the Chiefs), in relief of backup Michael Vick against the Arizona Cardinals and Roethlisberger against the Oakland Raiders, Jones played very well and helped Pittsburgh win those games against playoff caliber teams. Hopefully, he and offensive coordinator Todd Haley will be more prepared for his second start.

• Antonio Brown looks like the best wideout in the League again fresh off his career, and Steelers franchise record 17 receptions for 284 yard performance. But, only one of those catches came after Roethlisberger left the game with a foot injury. It happened to be the most important of the game, because it set up the game winning field goal.

However, Brown was missing in action for a majority of Roethlisberger’s last injury stint. His NFL record of 35 consecutive games with 5+ catches for 50+ yards was broken and he only went over 100 yards once. That was in the loss to Kansas City.

In order to beat Cleveland, Jones will have to hook up with Brown often versus a Cleveland secondary that gives up 254 yards a game. Brown doesn’t need to have half the production he had in his career record-breaking performance, just enough so the Cleveland secondary can’t load up the box to assist their weak run D.

• Steeler fans will want to pay close attention the Jets-Bills matchup on Thursday night. Each are in position to gain the final two AFC Wild Card spots Pittsburgh will need to win in order to make the postseason. If Buffalo wins, Pittsburgh, New York and Buffalo will have identical 5-4 records headed into Sunday.