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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Heading into last week's game against Baltimore, the Steelers seemed like a lock to make the playoffs. Would you attribute the Ravens' upset as a tribute to Baltimore playing a solid game, or did Pittsburgh drop the ball in certain facets of the game?"
Jeff: "I would say it was a little bit of both. The Steelers were flying high, and the Ravens played a great game on both sides of the ball. They possessed the ball on offense, keeping the high-flying Pittsburgh offense cold on the sideline; however, the Steelers also dropped the ball with both scheme and execution. The Ravens gave the Steelers the underneath routes and dared the team to have a run-oriented approach, and the Steelers offense simply wouldn't take what was given. The result was losing the turnover battle, and essentially the game."
Chris: "In order for Pittsburgh to make the playoffs, they need to win, and the Bills need to defeat the Jets. What percentage chance are Steelers fans giving their team to make the playoffs still?"
Jeff: "If you ask fans, they are slim to none. It isn't they don't think the Steelers will win Sunday, they aren't confident in getting "help" from other teams. This shouldn't come as a shock as the Steelers haven't had games fall their way to make the postseason since the early years of the Bill Cowher era. Can the Bills beat the Jets? I think so, but the majority of the fans are on the other side of the fence."
Chris: "If you had to decide just on one starting position to upgrade this offseason, either through free agency or the draft, what would it be?"
Jeff: "The Steelers need better defensive backs. That includes safety and cornerback. The team's pass rush has gained 42 sacks in 2015, a huge step forward from their previous two seasons. The missing part of the puzzle for this porous pass defense is having play makers in the back end. The Steelers might have an answer in Senquez Golson, their 2nd round draft pick who missed the whole season due to a shoulder injury, but there is no way one player can rectify the status of the secondary."
Chris: "Who is the top unrestrictred free agent coming up this offseason for the Steelers, and do you think Pittsburgh will retain them or let them walk to someone who will overpay them?"
Jeff: "They have several. Guard Ramon Foster, CB William Gay, CB Antwon Blake, CB Brandon Boykin, LT Kelvin Beachum and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey top the list. I think the Steelers will attempt to re-sign Gay and possibly Boykin, as well as make a run at Foster but the other players will be permitted to test the free agency waters."
Chris: "Not counting left tackle Joe Thomas or cornerback Joe Haden, if you could have one player from the Browns' roster on Pittsburgh, who would it be and why?"
Jeff: "Wow, tough question. With Todd Haley at offensive coordinator he would love to have a player like Travis Benjamin at his disposal. Benjamin is what Dri Archer was supposed to be, but failed miserably. On defense, I would take Nate Orchard. I absolutely loved him coming out of college, and if Bud Dupree hadn't fallen to the Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft, I believe Pittsburgh would have made a run at him in the 2nd round. "
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.