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Browns vs. Steelers: NFL Week 17 Preview and Prediction

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 of the NFL regular season. NOTE: Because the Steelers will likely play backups this week, it does not make sense for me to do a position-by-position “advantage” like I’ve done all season.


Position-by-Position Evaluation


Offense

  • The Steelers will start backup quarterback Landry Jones against the Browns. He made one start this year against the Patriots and was 29-of-47 for 281 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. When he’s played in the past, Pittsburgh hasn’t been afraid to pass the ball. This is a week where Jones will be playing without many of the starters, though.
  • Robert Griffin III is back and will start his fourth straight game. I believe he’s shown some progress week-to-week. I would’ve expected a bit more progress, but the one dimension that opposing teams fear right now is the read-option. Despite our offensive line limitations, that is freeing the running game up. The major element I want to see Griffin improve upon this week is his strength from the preseason: the deep ball. Step 1: Keep the damn ball in bounds.
  • I think we’ll see a healthy dose of Isaiah Crowell this week. With Duke Johnson a tad banged up, I wouldn't mind getting a preseason-type look at Darius Jackson. The Steelers could give veteran DeAngelo Williams a lot of carries, and he’s not some slouch who the Browns’ defense can easily defend.
  • I’m on-the-fence as to whether or not we’ll see Terrelle Pryor get to 1,000 yards for the season. He needs 87 yards to reach that plateau. If Pittsburgh has their backup defensive backs in there, and if they dare to put Justin Gilbert on Pryor, he could actually catch a few long ones. But, he has just 58 yards receiving combined over his past three games with Griffin, so the chemistry isn’t there right now.
  • On the offensive line, we could see Cameron Erving play some right tackle and Anthony Fabiano play center. Really, our offensive line has been so bad that a different combination has a, “you might as well” type of feeling to it.

Defense

  • The last time these two teams met, Pittsburgh’s defenders teed off, and Cleveland didn’t have a response. The competitive nature in me hopes that the Browns players remember that and, not only keep their head on a swivel, but deliver some vicious shots of their own. Even though Pittsburgh will rest some starters, that team is coached the same way and their philosophy breeds throughout the depth chart.
  • I don’t expect too many differences defensively for the Browns this week. The defensive line has been evaluated all season, and the only guy who might continue to see more reps in his youth is Carl Nassib. I’d like to see Joe Schobert get a few more reps in certain pass-rushing packages.
  • In the secondary, teams have just stopped targeting Briean Boddy-Calhoun. This is a game where I believe Jones and the backups won’t care about who they go after, so I’m curious to see how well he takes on the challenge of more action coming his way.
  • I mentioned this earlier, but I hope Justin Gilbert plays some significant reps this week. We need a storyline for what is shaping up to be a lackluster game, and this could provide some nice talking points.

Special Teams

  • The one thing you won’t see is backups playing at kicker, punter, and long snapper. Cody Parkey continues to deliver for the Browns, and another good day at Heinz Field could help lock up a spot for him in 2017.

Predictions

This year, we are listing predictions for multiple staff members here at DBN.


Chris Pokorny: “I’m going to regret having to talk about the Browns having the No. 2 overall pick when this one is all said and done. I do think Pittsburgh’s backups will make a game of this, but I saw enough progress from the offense last week to believe they’ll have a few good drives this week. I don’t have a lot of faith in Landry Jones for the Steelers, and while the backups will be pumped up to win, Cleveland’s group is also fired up after tasting victory a week ago.” Browns 24, Steelers 16.


Matt Wood: “Browns season ends with a tight one. Steelers rest their starters and Browns put up a fight. In the end, Pittsburgh wins on a QB strip sack.” Steelers 34, Browns 27.


Josh Finney: “Browns win a sloppy one.” Browns 24, Steelers 17.


Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below!