NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Preview
Welcome to the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
To Play or Not to Play? If the Starters Sit, Reserves Ready to Prove Their Worth.
Officially, the only player that is truly out with injury this Sunday for the Steelers will be Antonio Brown.
However, we’ve reached the last game of the year, and at worst, Pittsburgh has secured the #2 Seed in the AFC. With a win against the hapless Cleveland Browns, combined with a Patriots loss to the New York Jets, the Steelers would be the #1 Seed.
Both the Steelers and Patriots are weighing heavy decisions on whether their best players will sit out the season finale to avoid any costly injuries.
It’s a slippery slope for both teams who are playing a sub-par opponent that they feel can still defeat, even with their Junior Varsity playing.
Word out of the Steelers locker room is that Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and center Maurkice Pouncey will not play.
Backup quarterback Landry Jones is looking forward to getting a chance to see some action this weekend.
“It’s always a positive thing to go out there and get game experience,” said Jones, without giving up any definitive statements he’d be the starter.
“I’ve made it a habit as long as I’ve been a backup that I prepare like I’m playing in the game,” Jones said. “If I do have to play, it’s not like one of those things where it’s, ‘Oh, my goodness, I don’t know the game plan or what we’re doing.’ ”
Jones led the Steelers to a 27-24 overtime victory vs the Browns in last year’s season finale, throwing for 277 yards with three touchdowns.
Tackle Marcus Gilbert was a little less tight with game information, to say the least.
“They’ll get a little taste of Landry Jones,” Gilbert said, responding to a question about the Browns. “We’ll have Landry Jones in there. We don’t have Ben, we don’t have 8-4 (Antonio Brown), we don’t have Le’Veon Bell.”
Newly signed Stevan Ridley would relish a chance to be the featured back alongside Fitzgerald Toussaint, in place of Bell, if he does sit out.
“I have to play ball,” Ridley said. “If it’s two carries or 20 carries, whatever comes, I have to be prepared to make the most out of it. That’s really my mindset. Whatever they throw my way I’m excited to have. I’m going to go out and make plays.”
Gilbert certainly is comfortable with Ridley if he takes the reigns for Bell this Sunday.
“He’s a hard runner,” Gilbert said. “He’s smart. He picked up the offense pretty fast. You can’t ask for too much from someone who has been here a week, but we can always ask for effort and he’s given that since he’s been here.”
Defensive lineman Daniel McCullers was equally excited about getting on the field to showcase his abilities.
“I’m getting a hat,” McCullers said, “and I am going to go out there and show them my abilities and that I’m capable of making plays.”
McCullers has been frustrated about his minimal participation in games this season, as he was replaced as the starter by Javon Hargrave during the 2016 season.
I have been working hard in practice; I feel like I am in good shape,” McCullers said.
“I can play nickel, I can play whenever they need to play me. I can push the pocket. I can make plays. It’s time to show it. I’ve just got to be ready and take advantage of an opportunity.”
Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley expects results from whoever gets playing time.
“We’re getting ready to play as we always get ready,” Haley said. “Every guy in here is expecting to play and is going through their normal routine to get ready.”
Le’Veon Bell, who has a chance to win the NFL Rushing Title, sees the bigger picture in front of him instead of just individual stats.
“I think for me personally I just want to win a Super Bowl,” said Bell. “I look at guys like LeBron James. He never wins a scoring title. But he’s arguably the best player ever to play the game of basketball. I don’t necessarily care about the rushing title or most yards. I just want to make sure I do whatever it takes to win games and win the Super Bowl.”
Steelers Keys To Victory
- Dirty Landry! Landry Jones gets to showcase his abilities vs the Browns against whom he defeated in the same scenario last year, 27-24. Play to his strengths in the short passing game.
- Double Trouble! Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley are likely to split the RB duties. Set two motivated players loose vs the Browns and control the ball.
- Put DeShone Kizer On His Back! Pretty simple… sic the Dawgs (pun intended) upon Kizer and make him toss some errant throws to an eager secondary.
- Keep The Ball In Front Of You! The Browns have trouble scoring. Don’t hand them any gift touchdowns.
It’s going to be an interesting day. While a variety of starters will not start, one can only surmise that eyes will be on the scoreboard checking out the Patriots-Jets game. Say the Jets start doing the unthinkable and take a lead against the Patriots, and the Steelers reserves struggle against the Browns… well, what would you do if you were Mike Tomlin?
Honestly, I think the Steelers could head into the stands, maybe even hit up a few establishments in the North Side, and find players who could send the Browns to 0-16 purgatory for the 2017 season. It would be the icing on the cake the Steelers fans to watch the JV team take the field and wipe the floor with their rivals from the North.
Landry Jones just needs to manage the game well. No costly turnovers are key. Set up the running game behind the duo of Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint, and let Jones play similar to Alex Smith with short, accurate passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eli Rogers, and every now and then, keeping the defense honest with a deep ball to Martavis Bryant.
The Steeler defense certainly doesn’t want to be the only unit that allowed Cleveland to outscore their offense, so some pride will definitely be on the line, especially for a few select reserves who want to let their play do the talking.
The season record for sacks by the Pittsburgh Steelers is 55, set in 1994. You can bet the defense will be aiming for six takedowns of DeShone Kizer, who has been sacked 32 times in 2017.
“We were talking about it today, taking a picture and saying ‘the best to ever do it,’ ” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “It would be fun to be in that group to break the franchise sack record so we have something to brag about.”
Steelers 27 Browns 13
NFL Week 17
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-15)
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Game-time: Sunday, December 31st, 1:00 p.m.
TV: CBS (KDKA-TV) | Announcers: Spero Dedes (play-by-play) Adam Archuleta (analyst) |
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) Dan Fouts (analyst) | Laura Okmin (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: Dome
Vegas Line: Steelers -6
Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns History
- Series History: Series began in 1950.
- The Steelers are 71-58 in the overall Regular Season series against the Browns.
- Steelers are 43-21 playing at Home vs the Browns.
- Streak: Steelers won previous five meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: September 10, 2017, in Cleveland – Pittsburgh 21 Cleveland 18
- Steelers are 2-0 in the Post-Season vs the Browns.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 5, 2003, in Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 36 Cleveland 33 (AFC Wild Card)
The opponents the Pittsburgh Steelers will face in 2018 have been announced. In addition to games against AFC North opponents, the Steelers will play the AFC West and NFC South.
At home, the Steelers will have their normal AFC North matchups against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers will also host the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots.
On the road, the Steelers will take on AFC North rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Outside of the division, the Steelers will be at the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- With a win, the Steelers will improve to 13-3, 10-2 vs. AFC, and finish with a 6-2 record at home and a 6-0 divisional record in the AFC North in the 2017 regular season.
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, would improve to 22-2 vs. Cleveland in the regular season as a starter and 11-0 at home against the Browns.
- Antonio Brown needs one touchdown to break a tie with John Stallworth (64) for sole possession of the fourth-most total touchdowns by a Steeler in team history (rushing+receiving+returning).
- Le’Veon Bell will record the second 1,300-rushing yard season of his NFL career with nine yards (2014: 1,361).
- Chris Boswell is four points from surpassing Norm Johnson (1995: 141) for the most points scored in a season by a Steeler in team history.
- Cam Heyward will extend his single-season career-high in sacks with his next quarterback takedown (12 in 2017).
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
- Overall Record: 12-3
- Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 115-60 (.657)
- Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
- 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers Roster
- Last Game: Steelers 34 Texans 6
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger leads an offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Still elusive in the pocket and great at extending plays, Roethlisberger likes to test secondaries with at least 3-4 deep passes a game. Landry Jones is the back-up.
Le’Veon Bell is one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not thee best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner was the back-up but is out after injuring his MCL. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley will handle the backup duties.
Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster has already established himself as an elite option in his first season and is Roethlisberger’s 2nd favorite target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.
Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the end zone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the red zone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice option for Ben inside the 10-yard line.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has returned to form in 2017. On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.
At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get at the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier was a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. With Shazier out, Arthur Moats, Tyler Matakevich, and Sean Spence will make the best of a bad situation. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside and is making a name for himself every time he steps on the field.
The secondary has been revamped with the addition of Joe Haden at corner. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Coty Sensabaugh is the backup corner. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with J.J. Wilcox or Robert Golden backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.
- Ben Roethlisberger (4,251 yards passing | 28 TD passes | 14 interceptions | 21 sacks | 47 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- Le’Veon Bell (1,291 yards rushing | 9 rushing TD’s | 85 receptions | 655 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
- James Conner (144 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)*
- Fitzgerald Toussaint (3 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Stevan Ridley (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Antonio Brown (101 receptions | 1,533 receiving yards | 9 receiving TD’s)
- Juju Smith-Schuster (49 receptions | 774 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Martavis Bryant (44 receptions | 538 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Eli Rogers (17 receptions | 148 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Justin Hunter (4 receptions | 23 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Darrius Heyward-Bey (2 receptions | 47 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Jesse James (41 receptions | 363 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Vance McDonald (13 receptions | 183 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Xavier Grimble (4 receptions | 30 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 33-35 | FG: 35-38 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 10-10 | 30-39: 12-14 | 40-49: 9-10 | 50+: 4-4 | Long: 53)
A look at the Cleveland Browns!
- Overall Record: 0-15
- Head Coach: Hue Jackson (2nd Season with Browns)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 9-38 (.191) | 1-30 (.032) with Browns
- Playoff Record: 0-0 (Qualified for playoffs 0 times)
- 2017 Cleveland Browns Roster
- Last Week: Bears 20 Browns 3
Scouting the Cleveland Browns
DeShone Kizer is a turnover machine with 21 INT’s and has been sacked 32 times!
Isaiah Crowell has played better of late, but Duke Johnson is the more dangerous of the two. Johnson has 68 receptions.
Injuries have been a problem all year. Ricardo Louis leads the wideouts with 27 catches. Josh Gordon has played well since being reinstated. Corey Coleman, when healthy, is a pretty good receiver.
Seth DeValve and David Njoku give the Browns a nice duo at Tight End. They’ve combined for 63 receptions between them.
Prone to big plays and giving up a lot of points. Decent run defense.
- DeShone Kizer (2,580 yards passing | 9 TD passes | 21 interceptions | 32 sacks | 358 yards rushing | 5 TD’s)
- Isaiah Crowell (832 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 28 receptions | 182 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Duke Johnson (328 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 68 receptions | 618 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Ricardo Louis (27 receptions | 357 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Corey Coleman (22 receptions | 287 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Josh Gordon (14 receptions | 220 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Seth DeValve (33 receptions | 395 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- David Njoku (30 receptions | 348 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Zane Gonzalez (Extra Point: 22-23 | FG: 14-19 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 5-5 | 30-39: 4-6 | 40-49: 4-6 | 50+: 1-2 | Long: 54)
Fantasy Football Impact
- Start: WR Martavis Bryant, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, RB Stevan Ridley, Steelers D
- Sit: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell
- Sleeper: TE Jesse James
- Start: RB Duke Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns: Offense vs Defense Comparison
- Steelers Offense: Steelers average 389.2 YPG | Browns defense allows 326.8 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers average 102.9 YPG | Browns defense allows 96.1 YPG
- Passing: Steelers average 286.3 YPG | Browns defense allows 230.7 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers average 25.2 PPG | Browns defense allows 25.5 PPG
- Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 302.1 YPG | Browns offense averages 322.3 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers allow 106.1 YPG | Browns offense averages 107.4 YPG
- Passing: Steelers allow 196.3 YPG | Browns offense averages 214.9 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers allow 18.9 PPG | Browns offense averages 14 PPG
Injury Report (12/30/2017)
- Out: WR Antonio Brown (Calf)
- Questionable: C Maurkice Pouncey (Hip)
- Out: FB Danny Vitale (Groin)
- Questionable: DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Knee), RB Matthew Dayes (Knee), DB Derron Smith (Hip), DB Jamar Taylor (Foot)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)
Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (12-3)
Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 21-18
Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W– 26-9
Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 17-23
Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 26-9
Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 9-30
Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 19-13
Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 29-14
Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 20-15
Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 20-17
Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W– 40-17
Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 31-28
Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN), W– 23-20
Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 39-38
Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS), L- 24-27
Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W– 34-6
Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to ﬂexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend- BYE
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 13-14 Divisional Playoﬀ Games
Sunday, Jan. 21 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)