Weekly Pregame Analysis: 3 Reasons Why the Browns Could Beat the Steelers
The 2-7 Browns are reeling. With team leaders Joe Haden and Donte Whitner still in the concussion protocol, the younger players in the defensive backfield will most likely be called upon again. The quarterback situation is murky with an injured starter and a public cry to start Johnny Manziel for evaluation purposes. The Browns are likely out of the playoff picture meaning the veterans have to do everything possible to keep the team interested.
In addition, the Steelers are 5-4 and have won a game against a very talented Arizona Cardinals team with their 3rd string quarterback, Landry Jones. That will give Pittsburgh confidence as their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is likely out with a foot injury. DeAngelo Williams (as fantasy owners know) has not caused a drop-off in the run game despite the fact that star running back Le’Veon Bell is out for the season.
Finally, Antonio Brown has been sensational. With the Browns’ number one cornerback likely out with a concussion, the team’s depth in the secondary will have to prove itself against one of the game’s most dynamic and explosive wide receivers.
All that being said, here are three reasons why the Browns might win the game.
1) No Big Ben
The Steelers’ iron man quarterback has suffered a couple injuries this year. In addition, backup quarterback Michael Vick is out for the season. That leads to the Steelers playing 3rd string quarterback, Landry Jones. Jones has played well in relief this year. He is completing 59.6% of his passes with 456 yards, three touchdowns vs. two interceptions. His quarterback rating is a very solid 95.7. However, he is not Ben Roethlisberger. Arizona lost to an unknown quarterback who had no game-tape in which they could study. Although the sample size is small, the Browns have a lot more game tape to study than Jones’ previous opponent. There are several cases where backup quarterbacks look good at first until NFL coaches can figure out the tendencies and weaknesses of those backups. The Browns’ history is littered with those scenarios as several backup quarterbacks started out well only to fail in the future (Derek Anderson, Kelly Holcomb, and Brian Hoyer to name a few).
2) The Steelers Defense Will Give Up Plays
The Browns have faced tough defenses this year. This was my reason for optimism last week against Cincinnati. The Browns faced the 1st, 4th, and 6th ranked defenses in yards-per-game leading into the Bengals game. Minus a couple mistakes and some dropped balls, the offense looked decent in the first half of the Cincinnati game. A second half collapse doomed them. This week, they play a Steelers team who is 22nd in yards-per-game given up. If the Browns can find a way to take advantage of that and stay on the field with sustained drives, that leaves the ball out of the hands of the Steelers’ explosive offensive playmakers.
3) The Steelers' Offensive Line
Although the run-blocking abilities of the Steelers’ offensive line is solid, the pass protection has been suspect. Football Outsiders has the Steelers offensive line ranked 22nd against the pass. With a tough-to-tackle Big Ben out, this should help the Browns in creating pressure on the young Landry Jones. Young quarterbacks historically struggle more under pressure than veterans. The Browns must find a way to take advantage of this weakness on the Steelers’ offense and keep the ball out of their playmakers’ hands.
The Browns’ coaching staff is losing the faith of their fans and perhaps their players. The defensive play-calls have been atrocious (Armonty Bryant covering Marvin Jones on 3rd and 11 is a prime example). Also, the Browns are very quick to give up on the run. After having nine carries against Cincinnati in the first half, Isaiah Crowell had a total of one carry in the second. This put the game (that was 14-10 when the half started) in the hands of their inexperienced quarterback. With a lack of talent at all skill positions and a lack of faith in their coaching staff, I believe the Browns will face another losing effort heading into their bye week. If that happens, I am curious to see if any changes will be made on the coaching staff.
Prediction: Steelers 31-20