On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are on the road as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. To help preview a few topics from the Steelers’ perspective, we reached out to Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Browns and Steelers played in a similar scenario in Week 17 last year, where Pittsburgh was pretty much locked in to a certain spot (in this case, a first-round bye). While it's true they could get the No. 1 seed, it seems unlikely that the Patriots will lose at home to the Jets. Are you expecting Pittsburgh to send Landry Jones and the backups out there again?”
Jeff: “I do expect the Steelers to rest several starters in Week 17. Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Cam Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey, along with injured Antonio Brown, are likely to miss the upcoming game. It was in 2008 the Steelers watched Ben Roethlisberger get carried off on a stretcher vs. the Browns in another meaningless game. That can't happen again, so let the players rest up for the postseason.”
Chris: “What's the latest on Antonio Brown's injury from a few weeks ago, and the expectations for his return? We've heard a ton of differing stories.”
Jeff: “The main thought is he should be back for the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Getting the bye week was huge for Pittsburgh, and Brown's future, but how effective he will be is certainly up in the air. Based on his social media channels, he is rehabbing the heck out of his leg to get ready for the postseason and a chance at a championship.”
Chris: “Given what has come out, was it wise for the Steelers to release James Harrison?”
Jeff: “If what was released, regarding his behavior in the facility and with teammates, was true, the team didn't have much of an option. Sure, they could have made Harrison just sit out and watch, but he must have done something which forced their hand. What that is isn't public knowledge, but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, and this is just the latest in the "As the Steelers World Turns" soap opera.”
Chris: “Joe Haden just came back for Pittsburgh. Tell us about what the Steelers' depth chart will now be at cornerback heading into the postseason (starters and nickelback), and the confidence level you have in that group.”
Jeff: “With Haden in the lineup, this is one of the best groups in the NFL. Add in how Haden was traveling with Deandre Hopkins in Week 16, it makes their secondary even better. Artie Burns can dominate the 2nd best WR on the opposing team, and Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell can just play their games, not having to worry about the corners. This unit was No. 2 in the NFL when Haden was healthy, and that isn't a coincidence.”
Chris: “The Browns and Steelers once had a big-time rivalry, but I'm sure the perspective has changed for Pittsburgh fans over the years because of how consistently bad Cleveland has been. When you, personally, look at the 0-15 Browns heading into this week, what do you feel? The hunger of that rivalry to send us to 0-16? The pity to where you feel for Cleveland fans and want to see us avoid a winless season? Something else?”
Jeff: “To be honest, I don't even think Steelers fans care about this game. If they lost and the Browns won, who cares. There are bigger fish to fry in Pittsburgh, but I can also tell you no one wants to see the Steelers lose this game. Fans talk about momentum, and stuff like that, but for me personally, I want to see the Steelers sweep the AFC North for the first time in a long time. If the backups can beat the Browns, it would really be rubbing salt into the Browns' 0-16 wound.”
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.