Browns vs. Steelers – Week 14
Clearly the schedule makers in the NFL offices hate the Browns.
Pittsburgh’s record: 9-3 (tied for 1st in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 11th overall/9th passing/18th rushing
Defensive rank: 1st overall/2nd passing/7th rushing
All-time record: Steelers lead 62-56, including postseason
Last meeting: Pittsburgh won 41-9 in Week 17 last season
The line: Browns (+14)
What to Watch For
There’s really not much to say – especially after Sunday’s performance against the Ravens.
The Steelers have won 14 out of the last 15 against Cleveland and seven in a row at home. The last three visits to Pittsburgh have seen the Browns lose by an average of almost 21 points a game.
Last year, the Browns were outscored by the Steelers 69-19, as Ben Roethlisberger passed for 537 yards and five touchdowns, and Rashard Mendenhall scored three touchdowns. The Browns threw five interceptions and gave up 10 sacks.
And that was during a season when the team was “competitive.”
The Browns stagger into Heinz Field with an offense ranked 30th in the NFL and a defense ranked 31st against the run – giving up an average of 151.2 yards per game.
“We need to try and get better in every facet in terms of how we coach, to how we do things day-to-day, we’re always looking to get better in everything that we do,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “Pittsburgh, obviously, they’ve been very consistent and strong performers. They’ve won multiple Super Bowls and they’ve found a formula that works for them and I think what’s important is we keep building and try to find the one that works for us.
“I think we all understand what the AFC North rivalries are. I talk about it through the week in my team meetings and how important it is to win a division game. I think the most important thing is this is our next game and I think we need to keep that in mind as well.”
One area to watch is Joe Haden against Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace – a player the Browns passed on three times in the 2009 draft so they could select Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi.
Haden had a good week against Baltimore, according to Pro Football Focus:
During the broadcast it was commented that Joe Haden wasn’t yet a shut down corner because opposing quarterbacks aren’t scared to throw the ball at him. That much is true, he has been thrown at 69 times this season, but on Sunday Haden more than made up for his struggles a week earlier against AJ Green and the Cincinnati Bengals. Targeted four times by Joe Flacco, he didn’t give up a single catch while breaking up two. Both pass breakups came in the endzone to save touchdowns, including on 3rd-and-goal with 0:09 left in the first half. Haden covered Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans perfectly before getting getting his arm in front right as the ball arrived.
The only other thing is to see if Colt McCoy can make it through another game without getting broken in two.
It would help if the offensive line could hold a block for more than 0.3 seconds and the receivers would catch ball when it’s thrown to them, especially Greg Little. According to Pro Football Focus:
Each week I hear how Greg Little is poised for a breakout game and each week I come away disappointed. This week was no different with Little catching just three passes for 18 yards. It’s not that he isn’t getting the opportunity to make plays, seven passes were thrown his way, he just isn’t making the most of them. dropping two passes . On the year he has now dropped 14 passes, compare that to his team mate Jordan Norwood who hasn’t dropped a single one of the 24 passes thrown his way and Mohamed Massaquoi, who has just two drops, and you could understand if the Browns began to limit the opportunities Little is getting.
We suppose we should blame the coaches for not teaching McCoy that Little wants the ball placed on his right index finger, rather than his left ring finger, because hitting him in the hands clearly isn’t working.
As bad as the Browns have been within the division since returning in 1999, every once in a while they pull out a surprise against the Steelers.
In 1999, they won on a Phil Dawson field goal as time expired.
In 2000, Courtney Brown’s three sacks lead the way.
Who can forget how, in 2003, Tim Couch threw for two touchdowns and scored another one in a stunning 33-13 win in Pittsburgh?
Finally, there was the 2009 win in a frigid Cleveland Browns Stadium – aka the most over-rated win in franchise history.
And it is Christmas, a time for miracles. Does that mean the Browns have a holiday surprise up their sleeves for the fans?
What say you, coach?
“I think beating Pittsburgh is something that we want to be able to do and that we have to do to move forward as an organization. Any victory you have takes the sour taste out of your mouth for at least one week and then your next opponent comes into view so I think that’s what we need to keep in mind. Obviously division games, although we take them one at a time, when you look back on them in the offseason, they’re a little bit more special.”
Well, OK then.
Despite all that, we’ll take the Steelers and the points and hope the Browns can at least make a respectable showing on the NFL Network game of the week.
Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 7-4-1.