On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) in Week 10 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.(2-7) take on the
|The big news this week is that Cameron Erving will make his first start of the season, but it's coming at the last position people would have guessed: left guard. Joel Bitonio is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, so it could be Erving's job for awhile, but it's the position he's taken the fewest reps at this year, and even when he has played, he has not stood out on tape. Nonetheless, when you are 2-7, it's a great time to evaluate your younger players, so I'm looking forward to it.
The Steelers' offensive line consists of Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle, Ramon Foster at left guard, Cody Wallace at center, David DeCastro at right guard, and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. It'll be interesting watching Villanueva, the 6-9 tackle who has flirted with wide receiver, defensive end, and tight end in the past. After a slow start to his career, DeCastro has turned things around. The liability is at center, where Wallace can't match what Maurkice Pouncey would provide the club.
|Two weeks ago, Robert Turbin put the ball on the ground twice, then didn't play against Cincinnati, and then was waived. While I don't think the Browns would go to that extreme with veteran defensive lineman Randy Starks, I'd be curious to see if his playing time was cut back considerably this week. Danny Shelton will probably continue to face double teams, but if he were ever going to have a breakout type of game, it'd be great to come against Pittsburgh where their biggest liability on the line is a center.
Pittsburgh's starting defensive line includes Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the ends and Steve McLendon at nose tackle. Heyward has been playing like an All-Pro player, especially when it comes to getting to the quarterback, and Tuitt has been playing at a high level too. According to Steelers Depot, "through 9 games, opposing offenses are averaging just 2.16 yards per carry when McLendon is on the field."
Paul Kruger registered his first full sack of the year against the Bengals, so I'm hoping the monkey is off his back and he can find himself in a rhythm again. He's attempted so often to get around the edge with no success that I don't know what's happened to him faking a move around the edge, only to spin back inside. Also, this is a game where I feel like Barkevious Mingo's length could be of use in catching Landry Jones (if he starts) off guard in some third-down passing situations, but what do I know?
The Steelers' outside linebackers are Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones, with Bud Dupree and James Harrison filling in as the reserves. At inside linebacker, Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons lead a great tandem. On the outside, Dupree has been a bit of a liability for the defense despite leading the club with four sacks. Harrison is out this week with a knee injury.
|Pittsburgh's secondary has not been a high-caliber unit this year, resembling the sore spot of the defense in 2015. William Gay and Antwon Blake cover the outside cornerback spots, with Ross Cockrell being the nickelback. Of the three, Blake has by far been the biggest liability, both in coverage and missed tackles. At safety, Mike Mitchell and Will Allen lead the way. Neither one brings elite-caliber play to the table, but Allen can be exploited a bit more.
Cleveland will be without Joe Haden and Donte Whitner again. Pierre Desir will start for Haden and K'Waun Williams figures to be in the slot, but rookie cornerback Charles Gaines is expected to make his debut. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Gaines move ahead of Justin Gilbert and Johnson Bademosi on the depth chart with how well he played in the preseason. Jordan Poyer will be back, but I think it'd be a mistake to take Ibraheim Campbell's spot away right now. He's been a bright spot defensively the past two weeks after sitting all year, so why not continue striking while the iron is hot?
The Browns have had too many things go against them during their four-game winning streak, and it's about time that good fortune heads their way. I expect the running game to get off to another good start and whoever the Browns' quarterback is to taking advantage of it off of playaction. If Cleveland can sustain one good drive in the second half this week too, I think Landry Jones (if he starts) will be coerced in to too many mistakes as the Browns could try to drop a linebacker or safety into semi-double-coverage on Antonio Brown. If the quarterback situations change, I can't really do much about changing my prediction.
Cleveland Browns 25, Pittsburgh Steelers 18
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