Happy New Year Steelers’ Fans! Our Steelers have already won on both Thanksgiving and Christmas so why not New Year’s Day? With starters like Be Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown resting, the reserves need to step up as the Cleveland Browns invade Heinz Field.
What: Cleveland Browns (1-14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Sunday January 1st 2017 1pmET Kickoff
Weather: Low 40’s with scattered showers.
Line: Steelers -7
TV: CBS Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Key Injuries: PIT: OUT Ladarius Green (concussion) Stephon Tuitt (knee) Rob Golden (ankle) QUESTIONABLE Anthony Chickillo (ankle) Xavier Grimble (ribs) CLE: OUT Trey Caldwell (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE Joe Haden (neck, groin) Cam Johnson (Groin) Duke Johnson (Ankle)
2016 NFL Ranks: Browns’ Offense: Overall 31st Rushing 24th Passing 28th . Browns‘ Defense: Overall 31st Rushing 31st Passing 21st … Steelers’ Offense: Overall 7th Rushing 11th Passing 5th . Steelers’ Defense: Overall 9th Rushing 6th Passing 15th
AFC North Rankings: Pittsburgh 10-5 (division champion), Baltimore 8-7, Cincinnati 5-9-1, Cleveland 1-14
What You Need to Know: The Steelers have won more division titles than any other team since the 1970 merger… Ben Roethlisberger had a passer rating over 100 for the 75th time in his career… The Steelers earned their 29th postseason berth. That’s more than any team since the 1970 merger… Pittsburgh is the only team in the NFL not to allow a touchdown on the opponent’s opening drive.
What’s at Stake: Not a damn thing. The Steelers are locked into the three seed regardless of the outcome of this game or any other game. They will host a first round game next weekend.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 69-58 and they lead in Pittsburgh 42-21
Series Highs: Passing: PIT Ben Roethlisberger 417 yards 10/18/2009 CLE Bernie Kosar 414 yards 11/23/1986 Rushing: PIT Willie Parker 223 yards 12/7/2006 CLE Jim Brown 175 yards 10/5/1963 Receiving: PIT Buddy Dial 235 yards 10/22/1961 CLE Josh Gordon 237 yards 11/24/2013
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
A Defensive Rebound. Last week the Steelers’ D gave up 27 points. I guarantee they aren’t happy about that despite the fact they made some great plays to keep the team in the game. Even with several guys likely to see limited playing time as they prepare for the playoff game next week, Keith Butler will still have high expectations. There are still too many times where guys are getting loose for gains of 20 yards or more and that needs to stop. That goes hand in hand with one of the negatives from last week which was some pretty poor tackling at times. I expect that to be a key focus for this week.
Reserves Need to Become Stars. Ya ya, this is Cleveland, blah, blah, blah… It’s still a team that has to be taken seriously. With the key offensive stars resting, guys like Landry Jones, Eli Rogers, DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint need to step up. I don’t think we’ll see a ton of DWill but he should see some snaps. Regardless, whatever reserve player is in the game, it’s expected he play well and do what it takes to win the game.
Bounce Back Bos. On one hand, we should be grateful that Steelers’ kicker Chris Boswell wasn’t struggling with his PATs or field goals. Instead, he struggled with his placement of his kickoffs last Sunday. Twice Boswell knocked it out of bounds giving the Ravens excellent field position. Steelers’ Special Teams’ Coach Danny Smith claims that Bos has cured what ailed him but we shall see. Kickers must be able to directionally kick the ball on kickoffs. It can mean as much as 20 yards or so when you analyze it. I expect him to be better Sunday.
My prediction last week of a Baltimore victory was looking pretty good at several different moments of the game but I’m glad to say I was wrong. As nice as it would be to win this week, that isn’t the goal. Mike Tomlin wants to see attention to detail and health above all else. Look for Todd Haley to shorten the game with more rushing attempts than usual. The Browns are likely satisfied after getting that important first win last week. I think both teams will be glad to get this game over.
Steelers 20 Browns 13