The Pittsburgh Steelers will close out the regular season when they travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns.
The 9-6 Pittsburgh Steelers will take a somber trip to Cleveland to take on the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on the 3-12 Browns.
A somber mood will likely take hold of the team bus because this game could have locked up a playoff spot for the black and gold. After not showing up last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers need a win and a Jets loss to nab the AFC’s final wild card position.
A win in Cleveland seems likely. The Browns are one of the NFL’s worst teams and will be without starting quarterback Johnny Manziel who is suffering from a concussion. Still, many Steelers fans will be busy thinking about what could have been.
However, a playoff spot will be instantly out of reach if the Steelers cannot get the victory in Cleveland on Sunday.
Pittsburgh will be facing quarterback Austin Davis. While many will feel that this should be an easy out this weekend, the Steelers have been exposed by previous backups Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler in consecutive weeks. Davis’ last start was against the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he completed 25 of 38 passes for 230 yards and an interception.
The Browns are ranked 23rd in total offense this season. If they excel anywhere, its passing the football. Their 17th-ranked passing offense has been lead by a committee of Josh McCown, Manziel and Davis this season, but features talented targets in wide receiver Travis Benjamin and tight end Gary Barnidge.
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In addition, running back Duke Johnson is a player that the Steelers will want to keep their eye on going forward. His 368 rushing yards aren’t flashy but Johnson has shown ability to catch the football out of the backfield.
Conventional wisdom says that the high-flying Steelers offense should light up the scoreboard. Conventional wisdom also said that last week and the offense turned in its worse performance of the season. However, DeAngelo Williams should be in for another big week as Cleveland is once again last in the NFL in rushing defense.
Cleveland is less porous against the pass, ranking 19th in the NFL. Receiver Martavis Bryant had 179 yards receiving in what was arguably his best game of the season (his game against Arizona would beg to differ). There is no logical reason why the Steelers would have trouble against Cleveland’s defense.
This game comes down to Pittsburgh’s attitude. Cleveland would love nothing more than to kick a division rival out of the playoffs, particularly one that has ruled the division for so long. Pittsburgh had better show up this week if they want to win.