Tonight, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
A Feeling of Emptiness
- Sunday did not go as hoped. In typical fashion for Cleveland fans, we were teased with the appearance that the Chiefs would beat the Bengals, only to see Cincinnati rally to win the AFC North. The Bengals deserved it, nothing should be taken away from them. Cleveland had so many chances this season, but they weren’t the team to come in clutch more times than not. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the Browns have a 7-8 record, because it feels like we’ve played worse.
- Still, this was so close to being two exciting division games to end the season against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Now? It just feels a bit meaningless right now. One could argue, “Should we even play a Kareem Hunt, who is coming off of an ankle injury?” Or what about Baker Mayfield, what’s the sense in putting his shoulder at risk? Shouldn’t I still be more pumped up or excited about a division rivalry against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers? This is probably his final game against Cleveland — and we can officially eliminate them from the postseason too. I’m sure I’ll get a little excited come game time, but right now it’s just a sulking feeling. A year ago, we beat the Steelers twice to get into and then win a playoff game, and then nearly took down the Chiefs. This year, when we could’ve made a further run, the magic just wasn’t there all season. Bummer.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3-point underdogs now against the Steelers.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Motivation will be key this week — will Cleveland still collectively have enough of it? Despite my sorrows, I’ll take the Browns to win 24-17. Even though Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions against the Packers last week, I saw something in the offense in general that appeared as if they found a rhythm in terms of run-pass balance, aggressiveness, and creative playcalling that had been lacking for weeks. The Browns have the majority of their roster back from COVID-19 too after missing key pieces the last two weeks.” Browns 24, Steelers 17
Barry Shuck: “Geez, why pick the Browns anymore? They have lost seven of their last 11. And yet, two wins and some favorable scores from specific games and Cleveland could actually win the division. Not only win it, but would become the fourth seed. No, I am not off my meds. How amazing is that? Okay, so spilling out what needs to be done is the easy part. Which Browns roster will show up against Pittsburgh? There is very little consistency on the offense, and the kicking situation has gone major south. What happened to great Special Teams play?
So get this: the Steelers have allowed the most rushing yards in the league this year (2,141). They have allowed the most yards per carry average (4.8) plus the most runs of 20-yards or more (18). Yeh, dead last on all three. They have allowed the second most rushes for first downs (125) ranked 31st.
So get this other thing: the Browns will run in the first quarter and then abandon it. Yeh, you know I am right. They were slamming it down the NFC’s best club last week on the ground, and then just quit handing the ball off for whatever reason. That happens game-after-game. If you play fantasy football, you start guys based on matchups. When a team is horrible against the run, you start the running back playing that team. Oh, but no - not the Browns. Regardless, if Cleveland runs against the Steelers a zillion attempts they will win. If not, chalk this up to yet one more game this year that we can say, “Well, if they had beaten the (fill-in the blank)...... And don’t assume this one will be high-scoring. The Browns are averaging 15 points a game in their last six outings. So, how about Browns 15, Steelers 13?” Browns 15, Steelers 13
Thomas Moore: “Browns are getting healthy and whole just in time for a final two-game push to the playoffs. We saw “Ben” cry at the end of last year’s playoff loss, and with Monday night possibly being his last home game, tears of despair are once again on the menu.
The 2021 season has been a long, strange and often frustrating trip for the Browns. It certainly won’t be easy, because nothing ever is with this team, but the Browns will find a way to send the home crowd home disappointed on Monday night.” Browns 21, Steelers 17
rufio: “We fight like hell, Browns win 21-20. Myles gets a pair of sacks and Chubb runs for 140+.” Browns 21, Steelers 20
Ezweav: “Just have absolutely no confidence that this squad can be counted on to do anything other than show up wearing matching uniforms. And now that I’ve said that there’ll probably be an issue…
The matchups are favorable but what does it matter? We play to whatever level of competition we’re up against just to make it a particularly grating loss (or win). If Baker plays great, nobody can block or catch. If the defense balls out, Baker throws 25 picks (though to be fair, about 13 of those are obvious DPI’s that the dopey announcing crew will simultaneously acknowledge and then declare to be inconsequential).
It’s sour out here. I had no expectation that our playoff hopes would go beyond this week, and so because I think whatever it is that we needed to happen will just BARELY not happen, we’ll easily crush Yinztown.” Browns 45, Steelers 13
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.