This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your quick-hitting reference guide to everything you need to know about the Steelers and the Browns in their week one match-up. It is sponsored by Nail the Number: The Fight Against Cancer.
What: Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0 at Cleveland Browns 0-0
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
When: 1pm Eastern Sunday, September 9th, 2018
Weather: 66 degrees with heavy rains and winds to 23mph (NFL is reportedly keeping a close eye on this. 7″ of rain or more is expected).
Line: Steelers -4.5
Last Week: It’s Week One!
TV: CBS-TV Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Bruce Arians and Melanie Collins on the sidelines.
TV Coverage in Your Area: Check here for coverage where you live!
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Head Official: Shawn Smith
Key Injuries: PIT: OUT: Vance McDonald, Foot CLE: OUT: E.J. Gaines, Knee… DOUBTFUL: James Burgess, Concussion… EXPECTED TO PLAY: LB Genard Avery, DL Trevon Coley, TE Seth DeValve, WR Josh Gordon, OL Desmond Harrison, LB Christian Kirksey and DB Damarious Randall
2017 Final NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 3rd, CLE 24th Passing Offense: PIT 3rd, CLE 22nd Rushing Offense: PIT 20th, CLE 18th
Total Defense: PIT 5th, CLE 14th Passing Defense: PIT 5th, CLE 19th Rushing Defense: PIT 10th, CLE 7th
AFC North Rankings: Baltimore 0-0, Cleveland 0-0, Cincinnati 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0
What You Need to Know: Ben Roethlisberger (11-2) has more career wins in Cleveland than any quarterback on the Browns’ roster… Big Ben needs 411 yards to pass John Elway for seventh all-time in passing yards… If Antonio Brown can get 90 receiving yards he’ll join Hines Ward as the only Steelers’ receivers over 10,000 career receiving yards… Mike Tomlin is currently 19-3 all-time versus the Browns.
What’s at Stake: A good start and pride. Every team wants to start 1-0 regardless of how good or bad they play. But in this game, pride is a factor for both teams. For the Browns it’s simple. Following an 0-16 season the team is desperate for a win and a victory over the hated Steelers would go a long way towards rebuilding some pride. For the Steelers, a win takes the drama out of the locker room for a day and allows the media to focus on other players besides Le’Veon Bell.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 72-58, Browns lead in Cleveland 37-28
Series Highs: PASSING: Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 417yards 10/18/2009, Browns Bernie Kosar 414 yards 11/23/1986… RUSHING: Steelers Willie Parker 223 yards 12/7/2006, Browns Jim Brown 175 yards 10/5/1963… RECEIVING: Steelers Buddy Dial 235 yards 10/22/1961, Browns Josh Gordon 237 yards 11/24/2013 (courtesy steelers.com)
Last Meeting: December 31st, 2017 Steelers 28 Browns 24
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
Big Al Needs a Big Day. Ben Anderson mentioned this on the podcast the other night and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Alejandro Villanueva is going to be dealing with Myles Garrett all afternoon. Garrett presents problems for several reasons. His speed and quickness are among the best in the NFL. His change of direction is excellent and he’s developed a nice repertoire of pass rush moves. Big Al’s biggest problems usually involve his balance and getting beat to the edge. What makes this scenario more worrisome is that James Conner, for all of the good he can do, is not a good pass protector. I’m envisioning Villy getting some help from Jesse James or at the very least a chip or two on the way out for his route.
Make Tyrod Beat You. Tyrod Taylor is a very nice quarterback. But he’s not going to throw for a ton yards and he’s not going to challenge you down-field. His style is to take the what the defense gives him and that means lots of underneath throws and lots of checkdowns. Much like Todd Haley got the ball out of Ben Roehthlisberger’s quickly, look for Taylor to do the same. Now that’s fine if he’s throwing three and five yard routes and the Steelers are tackling well. What cannot happen is the Browns’ running game gets going and then the play-action pass opens up. If this happens the Steelers’ defense is in serious trouble. They must win on first down, force Taylor to throw deeper and take deeper drops in the pocket as well. He will make mistakes if forced into situations he isn’t comfortable being in.
Get Out Quickly. Remember last year’s opener when the Steelers blocked a Cleveland punt and returned it for a touchdown? Didn’t it feel like the floodgates were opening? They didn’t and the team hung on for a three-point win. With Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Ramon Foster hardly playing a lick in the preseason, I don’t want to hear a damn thing about rust. Randy Fichtner needs to find ways to get both Roethlisberger and Brown going quickly. If Big Ben is struggling with overthrows or inaccuracy in general then it’s going to be a long day. That day gets worse if AB isn’t involved in the offense quickly too. Getting off to a good start does not guarantee victory but it goes a long way towards that. If Roethlisberger and the offense are forced to press and play from behind, they can but it’s far from what Mike Tomlin would like to see.
Predictions: No team has had more expectations thrust upon it this summer quite like Browns have but this is still a young team with many questions. The Steelers of course have some issues of their own and the weather on Sunday is expected to be down-right awful with heavy rain and high winds. There will be turnovers and there will be mistakes but I like the Steelers to escape as they did last year. Steelers 23 Browns 20