The Browns saw their chances at claiming the AFC North championship on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs. But the Browns can still grab a wild card spot with two wins and some help. (More on that in a moment.)
Standing in the way are the Steelers, who have not lost to the Browns at home in the regular season since 2003. The game will also likely be the final home game for Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who said on Thursday that the end of his career is rapidly approaching on the horizon.
Cleveland is coming off a week that saw them lose two games in a crushing fashion, but has also seen a return of almost every key player from the injury list and/or the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Whether or not that is enough to keep the playoff dream alive is still be determined. In the meantime, here is everything you need to know as the Browns look to bring yet another tear to Roethlisberger’s eye in their final meeting.
Records: Cleveland is 7-8. Pittsburgh is 7-7-1.
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.
Stadium: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: ESPN (National), WKYC-3 (Cleveland)
Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Steelers won the last regular season matchup, 15-10, in Week 8 of this season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Steelers lead the all-time series, 78-61-1. The Browns last win on the road in the regular season against Pittsburgh came in Week 5 of the 2003 season.
Weather: 28 degrees and clear, with a 2 percent chance of precipitation and 5 mph winds from the west/northwest. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing their white jerseys and orange pants.
White on Orange for Primetime. pic.twitter.com/wsxaMc7ucX— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 31, 2021
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: running back Kareem Hunt (ankle) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee). Out: safety John Johnson III (hamstring), safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. (ankle) and cornerback Troy Hill (knee).
Steelers - Questionable: punter Pressley Harvin (personal/illness) and center Kendrick Green (calf). Out: linebacker Buddy Johnson (foot).
The line: Browns -3.5
A Few Things to Watch For
The dwindling playoff hopes - The Browns still have potentially something to play for in these final two games, outside of trying to finish with a winning record.
The #Browns could still earn the wild card if they win out AND:— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) January 2, 2022
The Broncos beat the Chargers today
The Patriots beat the Dolphins next week
The Broncos beat the Chiefs next week
The Chargers beat the Raiders next week.
If Cleveland can beat the Steelers on Monday and then the Bengals next week in the home finale, they can earn a wild card spot if the following happens:
and then all three of these next week
- The New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins
- The Broncos beat the Chiefs
- The Chargers beat the Las Vegas Raiders
Of course, by the time you read this the Chargers may have already won, but there is still a chance.
Run to daylight - The Browns are coming off a game against the Packers where they rushed for 219 yards and 8.8 yards per carry.
On the flip side, the Steelers are at the bottom of the league rankings in rushing yards allowed per game (No. 32) and in yards allowed per carry (No. 31). The Steelers have also allowed a 100-yard rusher in eight consecutive games, according to The Athletic.
The Browns can’t simply just run the ball whenever they want, allegedly, even though running back Nick Chubb is averaging a league-best 5.7 yards per carry when running against an eight-man box this season, according to CBS Sports.
Highest yards per rush when facing 8+ men in the box this season— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 1, 2022
Nick Chubb 5.7
A.J. Dillon 5.3
Eli Mitchell 4.9
Tony Pollard 4.9
*min. 100 rushes pic.twitter.com/XdYYK6Cqfa
This is a game where the Browns should play to their strength and, if all goes well, take a lead into the fourth quarter and then run the Steelers into the ground with Chubb, Hunt (if he plays) and D’Ernest Johnson.
Spoil the fun - The last time the Browns played the Steelers at Heinz Field they left quarterback Ben Roethlisberger crying on the bench after the Browns whipped the Steelers in the AFC playoffs.
Monday is expected to be Roethlisberger’s final home game of his career, and it would be nice if the Browns could send him out this season in the same fashion they did last year.
A final quote
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt on quarterback Baker Mayfield’s injured shoulder (via a team-provided transcript):
“It definitely shows. It has definitely handcuffed him a little bit with his ability to get that left side out of the way. There are a couple of things that are unique to his throwing style that he does and he is successful doing it. Those are technique things. Yeah, we can work on those. Hopefully, next year without the harness, you will see Baker back to normal with his normal throwing mechanics. It is definitely something that has hindered him. He has fought through. We have a lot of respect for the fact that he has battled through that, and we know he is injured. That is where I will leave that. Yeah, there are some things you can do to help him there. We have tried those, as well.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Monday night’s game against the Steelers?