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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns play another game at home when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. To help preview the Week 11 contest, I reached out to Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “When I think about the Steelers, one of the things that pops into my head is "stability." I seem to be hearing a few "fire Mike Tomlin" cries, though. If you had to put a percentage on how many fans want him to stay vs. want him gone, what would it be? Which side of the fence are you on?”
Chris: “One of the Steelers' prized additions this offseason was supposed to be TE Ladarius Green from the Chargers, but injury has kept him out most of the season. He made his debut last week -- how much playing time did he see? Will he be seeing starter-level reps? In case you haven't heard, the Browns are terrible at defending tight ends.”
Jeff: “Green saw limited snaps vs. the Cowboys in Week 10, but the team is expected to give him an increased workload heading into Week 11. The Browns have struggled against tight ends, and this could be the perfect game to see Green get a full workload. Getting through his first game was a big hurdle for him, and expect Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger to utilize his size and speed down the seam Sunday.”
Chris: “How has Artie Burns, the Steelers' first-round pick, performed in 2016? Is he a starter now? And, I know you basically haven't had the chance to see Justin Gilbert, but is there any feel you have for if he'll ever get a shot to play cornerback in Pittsburgh?”
Jeff: “Artie Burns is a starter, but he has struggled. He has moments of brilliance, and times where he looks completely lost on the football field. Teams are targeting Burns a lot, and I would expect Terrelle Pryor to be staring at him a lot on Sunday, unless the Steelers decide to have Ross Cockrell shadow Pryor, which they have done this season. As for Gilbert, he has been a healthy scratch a time or two, but he is pretty low on the depth chart. In my opinion, if he has a chance of playing corner for the Steelers, it will be after a full offseason with the team, with the coaching staff and within the organization. There haven't been any reports, both positive or negative, surrounding Gilbert since he arrived in the Steel City.”
Chris: “The Steelers' defense doesn't rank too well this year. What would you label as the two weakest starting positions on defense?”
Jeff: “The weakness of this defense is simple. Outside linebacker and the secondary as a whole. The Steelers haven't had a solid OLB since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley used to harass the opposition. Now, 38-year-old Harrison has been dubbed the starter, and there is hope with Bud Dupree returning off IR that he can make a difference. The secondary isn't the best, but they are young and athletic. Struggles this year will lead to experience and a strength of the defense in years to come.”
Chris: “The AFC North is a mess this year, but I'm still viewing the Steelers as the favorites to take the division. Are Steelers fans confident, or do they think this isn't their year (for the division, at least)?”
Jeff: “When it comes to winning the division, fans still think the Steelers have a shot, although hope is diminishing with each passing week. The Steelers are in a must-win situation this Sunday in Cleveland, and if they have any hopes of winning the division (the only way an AFC North team gets into the playoffs), they have to go on a tear for the final 7 games of the season. It all starts with a win, something even the most die hard fans are concerned about heading into Week 11.”
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.