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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Pittsburgh Steelers”

Browns vs. Steelers – Week 17

Sixteen weeks after the Cleveland Browns opened the 2011 NFL season on a warm, September afternoon, the season comes to a close on Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Opposition

Pittsburgh’s record: 11-4 (tied for first in the AFC North)
Offensive rank: 11th overall/9th passing/16th rushing
Defensive rank: 1st overall/1st passing/9th rushing
All-time record: Steelers lead, 63-56 (counting postseason). The Browns are 35-23 at home against the Steelers
Last meeting: Pittsburgh won, 14-3, in Week 14
The line: Browns (+7)

What to Watch For

With last week’s loss to the Ravens, the Browns earned their fourth consecutive 11 loss season. They are the only NFL team to pull off that dubious accomplishment.

So what better way to close out the season than to host a Pittsburgh team that is No. 1 in defense and playing for a No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the playoffs?

The fact that the Steelers have something to play for works in Cleveland’s favor, as the Browns still have an opportunity to maximize their draft position. And really, this time of year in Cleveland, what else is there to talk about?

While we will never root for the Browns to lose, a loss on Sunday will at least be more palatable knowing it will give the Browns the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Plus, while a win on Sunday would be nice, there is always the fear that, by beating the Steelers, fans will lose sight of how much work still lies ahead for the team, much like what happened in 2009, when the Browns beat the Steelers late in the year in the most over-rated win in franchise history.

“I think you remember what happened most recently and I think anytime you can win your last game I think it makes you feel good as you move forward,” coach Pat Shurmur said in his Friday press conference. “Then regardless of what happens, there are ways that we have to improve so that’s not lost on me either. What’s at task now is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and doing what we have to do to get a victory.”

Seneca Wallace will get the start again at quarterback, which, according to him, is all that matters. Apparently helping Colt McCoy learn the offense and, you know, making the team better isn’t a priority in Seneca’s world.

“That was Jake (Delhomme’s) deal,” Wallace told The Plain Dealer when asked if he mentored McCoy this season. “He did a lot of some stuff with him last year. But that’s not my thing. It’s just one thing I don’t do. I came in with the mind-set I wanted to compete, whatever case that was.”

Way to be a team player.

On the defensive side, it will be interesting to see how cornerbacks Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown match up with receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

According to Pro Football Focus, Haden and Brown did not allow a single reception last week against Baltimore. Brown has had two solid games in a row since giving up four catches and a touchdown against the Steelers, and Haden has allowed just two catches for 18 yards in the past two games.

The Prediction

The Browns are just too limited on offense to put up much of a fight against a Pittsburgh team with something to play for.

We’ll take the Steelers minus the points.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 8-6-1.

(Photo courtesy of

NFL hits Harrison where it hurts

The NFL got it right on Tuesday, suspending Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison one game for his blatant illegal hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.

According to the NFL press release announcing the suspension, this is Harrison’s fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in the past three seasons.

In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010, Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period.

According to the NFL’s 2011 League Policies for Players manual: “Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.”

If that doesn’t describe Harrison, we don’t know what does.

Read more…

Browns vs. Steelers – Week 14

The Browns head to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game against the Steelers, the first of two meetings between the teams over the final quarter of the season.

Clearly the schedule makers in the NFL offices hate the Browns.

The Opposition

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.

The Prediction

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.

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