This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your quick-hitting reference guide to everything you need to know about the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in this Wild-Card Game matchup. The TPS is sponsored by Gryffin the King!
What: Cleveland Browns 11-5 at Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: 815pm ET Sunday January 10th 2021
Weather: 33 degrees and partly cloudy
Line: Steelers -6 O/U 47.5
Last Week: The Browns defeated the Steelers 24-22 to make the postseason for the first time in 18 years.
TV: NBC Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analysis), Michelle Tafoya (field reporter)
TV Coverage in Your Area: All Postseason Games are Nationally televised.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley and Missi Matthews on the sidelines.
Head Official: Shawn Smith. This is his third season as an NFL Head Official and this is just his second playoff game in that role. He worked the Seattle-Philadelphia Wild-Card Game last year. The Steelers saw him twice this season. Once in a week three win over Houston where there were six accepted penalties and then recently up in Buffalo where 10 penalties were accepted.
Key Injuries/Game Status (courtesy steelers.com) PIT: None CLE: T Jack Conklin (Knee) – Questionable
DE Myles Garrett (Shoulder) – Questionable, CB Terrance Mitchell (NIR) – Questionable, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Concussion) – Questionable, DT Sheldon Richardson (Neck) – Questionable, CB M.J. Stewart (Calf) – Questionable
G Wyatt Teller (Ankle) – Questionable
Injury Notes: Because the Browns didn’t practice until Friday evening, their game statuses are going to be fluid over the next 36 hours… The Steelers are obviously pretty healthy but pay attention on Sunday afternoon as to who gets a helmet and who doesn’t.
2020 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 12th CLE 14th Passing Offense: PIT 15th CLE 24th Rushing Offense: PIT 32nd CLE 3rd
Total Defense: PIT 3rd CLE 21st Passing Defense: PIT 3rd CLE 22nd Rushing Defense: PIT 11th CLE 9th
AFC North Rankings: Pittsburgh 12-4*, Cleveland 11-5, Baltimore 11-5, Cincinnati 4-11-1
This Week in the AFC North: Baltimore at Tennessee Sunday, 1pm ET
What You Need to Know: Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt were named first team All-Pro this week… The Steelers are 10-1 all-time when playing a team a third time during the same season… Pittsburgh is 36-26 all-time in the playoffs and is 3-3 in home Wild-Card games… The Steelers are 8-5 in postseason games at Heinz Field… Mike Tomlin is 8-7 all-time in the postseason and he’s 18-13 on Sunday Night Football…
Cleveland Browns Names to Know: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Kareem Hunt, RB Nick Chubb, DE Myles Garrett, WR Jarvis Landry, LT Jedrick Wills, DT Larry Ogunjobi, K Cody Parkey
What’s at Stake: It’s really quite simple. A win and the Steelers would play either in Buffalo or would host the winner of the Tennessee-Baltimore game. A Cleveland win means they would play at either Buffalo or Kansas City.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 77-60-1
Last Meeting: Last week in Cleveland. Browns 24 Steelers 22
Check out the latest Steel City Blitz Steelers Podcast for more on this game.
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
1. Make Baker Play From Behind. Our stats wizard Ian had a great stat this week about Baker Mayfield. To sum it up, he has the highest QB rating in the NFL on play-action. When he drops straight back his rating is among the worst. Therefore, if the Steelers can limit the run early and more importantly, get a lead early, then that will significantly alter Mayfield’s ability to use play-action. It does however go a bit further than that. The Steelers did not do a good job of keeping him in the pocket last week and burned them. With Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt back I hope that helps but it’s an issue regardless. Mayfield has only thrown one INT in his last several games but I sense the Steelers will work hard to change that.
2. Conner Has to Stay on the Field. The best running back the Steelers have is James Conner. He is the most versatile of them all and his presence is vital to the team’s success Sunday. Let’s start with blocking. He’s the best they have at blitz pickup. He’s also the best they have at catching passes out of the backfield. And he’s clearly the best they have at running the football. There are of course certain situations where Benny Snell will spell him, but the Browns’ defense cannot ignore Conner when he’s on the field the way they can Snell and others. This isn’t about Conner putting up big numbers. It’s about his ability to get those four and five yards on catches or runs to keep the Steelers ahead of the sticks. I’m telling you, he will make several plays on Sunday that matter.
3. One and Done Mentality. I hope the team has listened to the words of Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and others this week. They have talked about motivation and playing like this is the last game they’ll ever play and the has to resonate with the team because those comments are on point. Watt spoke of not needing to motivate yourself, “it’s the playoffs. If you can’t get up for this…” Big Ben talked about how you can’t take postseason appearances for granted. Some guys play an entire career without ever making the playoffs so you have to make the most of this. I sincerely hope every player on the sidelines recognizes what the leaders have said.
Prediction: The Browns are missing their head coach, their all-pro guard and a few key players on defense as well due to Covid and injuries. No one is going to feel sorry for them and I don’t expect them to make excuses either. The Steelers are as healthy as they’ve been and several key players are coming off a week in which they got a crucial amount of rest. Big Ben has to play well. Is that blunt enough? If Mike Tomlin doesn’t allow him to go no-huddle and call things on his own (which has been the Steelers best offense all season) then he’s playing to lose. The defense should play well and has to be careful about being spread out as the Browns did to them last week. If the Steelers take care of the football then this should go their way.
Steelers 28 Browns 16
Season Prediction Record: 11-5