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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

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Game: Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0)
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
When: 1:00 PM EST (CBS Today begins at 12:00 PM. WOIO coverage begins at 11:00 PM. WEWS and WKYC also have Browns programming; check your local listings.)
Announcers: Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon (Game in HD) The last time the Cleveland Browns opened the season off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was our re-birth year and we were promptly blown out. Nearly a decade later, both teams are combating on opening day, and many things have changed, even from just one season ago. The Steelers said "goodbye" to long-time Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, making way for former Minnesota Vikings assistant Mike Tomlin. Tomlin is trying to put a slightly different scheme on the Steelers' defense, while giving Ben Roethlisberger some more control offensively. As for the Browns, it may be do or die time early on in the year for head coach Romeo Crennel. He has been horrible in division games, and will play three of them within the first four weeks of the season. After making the decision to start Charlie Frye in favor of Brady Quinn Week 1, will the decision pay off? Let's get to the breakdown of the game...

OFFENSE (LAST YEAR)

Category Steelers Browns
Points Scored 22.1 (12th) 14.9 (30th)
Passing 233.3 (9th) 181.1 (23rd)
Rushing 124.5 (10th) 83.4 (31st)
Total Offense (yards) 357.8 (7th) 264.6 (31st)

DEFENSE (LAST YEAR)

Category Steelers Browns
Points Scored 19.7 (11th) 22.3 (22nd)
Passing 212.1 (20th) 202.6 (15th)
Rushing 88.3 (3rd) 142.2 (29th)
Total Defense (yards) 300.3 (9th) 344.8 (27th)
- Quarterback
Before the draft, I was against the thought of drafting Brady Quinn so much, because I wanted the Browns to focus more on getting Joe Thomas. After getting the best of both worlds and seeing Quinn perform in the preseason, I wouldn't have had any issues with him starting on opening day. With that said, I completely agree and am in favor of starting Charlie Frye. I don't feel Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback in this league, especially after his efforts at times last season, but he does have a tremendous winning percentage and a Super Bowl ring to brag about. Both quarterbacks are mobile, but Roethlisberger is able to dodge defenders a little bit better, especially when the game is on the line.
- Running Back
The Browns made a definite upgrade with Jamal Lewis in the offseason, but there's no questioning that the Steelers always dominate the Browns on the ground. The last time these two teams met, Willie Parker ran for over 200 yards with ease. As Browns fans, we're hoping he doesn't crack that mark in the season opener, but our run defense is still quite vulnerable. Pittsburgh also has more depth in veteran Najeh Davenport, although Browns backup running back Jason Wright did have some success last year against the Steelers. For the Browns, having a running back that's already so used to facing Pittsburgh will not necessarily help pad the stats, but it can move the chains.
- Receiver
No one does it better than wide receiver Hines Ward, although when Leigh Bodden has been healthy, he has done a fine job at shutting him down. After Ward, the next biggest threat is Santonio Holmes, who looks to be on the verge of having a breakout second season with the way he finished last year. The Browns bring Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow to the rivalry again, both of whom are in desperate need of a huge game against the Steelers to further their popularity in Cleveland. Neither team has the greatest amount of depth past the top players, which is why the ranking is even.
- Offensive Line
I'm hoping that I don't have to eat my words with this one, because I think I may have only ranked the Browns' offense line even or better than the opposing team's offensive line twice all of last season. Did the additions of Eric Steinbach, Joe Thomas, and Seth McKinney put us on the same level as the Steelers' offensive line? I think it's a case where two parts cancel out. While I would still give the slight overall advantage to the Steelers, they have the better run blocking abilities while the Browns have the better pass blocking abilities.
- Defensive Line
Considering all of the positions, this is the one in which the Browns aren't even close to competing. I'd take Casey Hampton as our nose tackle in a heartbeat, and I'd probably ditch all three of our starting linemen if necessary just to get him. Defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are solid as well, and play a huge role in the reasoning why Pittsburgh is able to shut down the running games of almost every team in football. It'll be interesting to see if Orpheus Roye is able to return for the Browns, and also how well Robaire Smith will do in the rivalry.
- Linebacker
The Steelers are full of veterans, even after dumping the loud-mouthed Joey Porter, but the Browns are full of youth that could wreck havoc in the NFL this year. Kamerion Wimbley and Antwaan Peek have the potential to cut down on all of the side-to-side running plays the Steelers try to pull off. The Steelers are counting on James Harrison to play at a starting level in place of Porter, which is something the Browns may want to try and see if they can exploit early on.
- Secondary
With the exception of Troy Polamalu, I've never been very high on the Steelers' secondary, and I don't think they did anything in the offseason to address the issue. The Browns may have had a problem in the secondary too had they not drafted cornerback Eric Wright, who has the potential to be complete the best secondary the Browns have had since returning to the league. Safety Brodney Pool will heavily be depended on to ensure that the non-impact players on the Steelers don't break out. He's finally a starting safety and needs to show that he's not a vulnerability.
- Special Teams
The status of Dave Zastudil is still in question after the signing of Paul Ernster, which could pose big problems for the Browns. Zastudil has been so good at consistently punting the ball deep and getting it down inside the 20, and you don't want to risk losing that. The Steelers acquired returner Allen Rossum from the Atlanta Falcons a few days ago, but Joshua Cribbs has clearly shown that he is one of the few men in the NFL that can take a kick back the distance on any given play.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 20.
Something about a Steelers team that was average last season under Bill Cowher, and is entering this season with their first new head coach in a decade and a half, tells me that the opening of the season will not be too bright for them. The only thing I keep hearing about the Steelers are assumptions: the Steelers will run the defense fine under Tomlin, and Ben Roethlisberger won't make as many mistakes as he did last year. I think the Steelers have the potential to do well, but I need to see them win before I can make that commitment. The Browns will play a mistake-free game, good enough to just barely slip by with a win.

For an extra thing, here's my prediction for the first play of the game: a four-yard carry by Jamal Lewis.

This is the official gameday topic for the first game of the regular season, featuring the Cleveland Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!