The (4-5) Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cleveland to take on the (0-10) Browns. The Browns are coming off an interesting game against the Ravens where rookie starting quarterback Cody Kessler was benched in the second half while leading 7-6. Then Josh McCown took over and the Browns ended up losing 28-7. The Steelers lost to the Cowboys last week 35-30 in a shootout. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns in that game. But the deciding factor of this game was the Steelers going 0/4 on two point conversion attempts.
The running game just needs to keep the Steelers honest. Its not like the Browns are going to run for 120 yards but if they can get 85-100 total yards on the ground then it should keep the Browns in third and manageable. The Steelers give up about 102 yards on the ground per game with ranks 15th in the NFL. But with the loss of Cameron Heyward the Steelers will need to adjust and the Browns need to take advantage of the lack of Heyward...both in the running game and pass protection.
The offensive line of the Browns will dictate how this game goes. Cam Erving and Spencer Drango are the most important, Erving and Drango have to keep the pocket clean for Kessler to be able to throw the ball down field like Hue Jackson wants. Yes, Kessler needs to get the ball out quicker but we've seen Erving...he might be the worst player in the NFL and Drango is still a rookie. But if the Browns can win in the trenches then the Browns have an opportunity to at the very least cover the betting spread.
The Browns struggle against the pass giving up about 275 yards per game...but against the run the Browns are 31st, giving up 143 yards per game. The linebackers for the Browns will have big games stat wise because the Steelers game plan should be give the ball to Bell 25+ times. The Browns have to choose whether or not to sell out on the run or pass and then hope they can force a turnover...whether its in the red zone stopping a score or the Steelers side of the ball shortening the field for the offense.
Cody Kessler: Kessler is going to be one of the five guys to watch until the end of the season. Kessler has an opportunity to prove to the front office and coaching staff he's the starter to build around. Kessler need to get the ball out quickly and to stay aggressive whether its down the field or scrabbling for extra yards.
Cam Erving: Erving is running out of chances to prove he's an NFL player not just a starting center. With Heyward out, Erving has an opportunity to show he can be a competent center. These next few weeks will be a tryout not just for his Browns career but his entire NFL career.
Emmanual Ogbah: Ogbah is now listed as an defensive lineman instead of an outside linebacker. He needs to play well in both against the pass and rush. And he needs to capitalize on the pressure he gets on Roethlisberger.
Joe Haden: As long as Haden doesn't let Antonio Brown go for 120 + yards then its a success. Haden is in an almost impossible situation. He's banged up and he will have to go up against the best receiver without any help this game will show if he's quit...and if the team has quit on this year in general.
Betting Line: Pittsburgh -8
Prediction: Steelers 35 Browns 24
The Browns will fall to 0-11...*insert #questforimperfection & 0-16 parade jokes. This is a must win for the Steelers to potentially remained tied with the Ravens (who are playing the Cowboys). Kessler should play well and Pryor and Kirksey will continue to show that they are pro-bowl players but overall the team lacks talent all over...and this game will show the giant gap between the Steelers and Browns.