This week, the(3-12) take on the (9-6) in Week 17 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
|OL||The Steelers' offensive line is the same as the last time these two teams met: 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.
Earlier this season, I still gave the Browns the advantage -- with three Pro Bowl caliber players -- when Cameron Erving was replacing Joel Bitonio. With Both Erving and Austin Pasztor starting, though, the amount of detrimental plays from the guard positions evens things out.
|DL||Pittsburgh's starting defensive line includes Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the ends and Steve McLendon at nose tackle. McLendon has done well against the run, while Heyward is a good all-around player who leads the team with seven sacks. The Browns' defensive line had their best collective game of the season versus the Chiefs last week, in part because they stayed fresh when the secondary actually stopped the opposition on 3rd-and-long situations.
|DB||Pittsburgh's secondary features William Gay and Antwon Blake as the starting cornerbacks and Mike Mitchell and Will Allen as the starting safeties. When I asked our affiliate what position needed to be upgraded they offseason, they said cornerback and safety. As good as the Steelers are in some areas, I don't think they could get very far if they do make the playoffs, thanks to their porous secondary.
With all of that said, the Steelers still get the advantage at defensive back because the Browns will be without Tramon Williams, meaning either Pierre Desir, Johnson Bademosi, or Justin Gilbert will start at one of the cornerback positions. They might have been able to get away with lesser defensive backs against the Chiefs, but not against a Steelers group with several playmakers.
I think Cleveland's secondary, despite being limited, will do a better job this time around against Pittsburgh's receivers. The Browns are just too thin at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive guard, and cornerback to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger down for long, especially when they are seeking a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Cleveland Browns 13
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