The final game of the season for the Cleveland Browns. It’s been another long, miserable losing season for the franchise who’s suffering their ninth consecutive losing season.
However, after last week’s emotional first win of the season against San Diego, the Browns are looking to close out the season with consecutive wins and to build some momentum heading into another crucial offseason.
Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion in the win but was cleared to play on Thursday and was named starter on Friday. This could be his last opportunity to impress the front office and head coach Hue Jackson to potentially keep him around for the immediate future.
With the Browns having two top ten picks in the draft and rumors attaching them to New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Griffin needs to prove he’s worthy of being the quarterback in 2017.
Griffin looked better under center against San Diego after struggling his first two games back from injury. The second half however saw Griffin struggle with the offensive line getting manhandled by San Diego’s defense. Griffin got sacked seven times and eventually was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Griffin has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season in four starts. Now he’s ran two touchdowns in but if he’s going to be the quarterback for the near future, he needs to get the ball into Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor’s hands.
As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is essentially a preseason game for the team. They clinched the AFC North division title last week in their win against Baltimore and their key players will not play against Cleveland.
While the majority of their team will play, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown will not play according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
Fourth year backup Landry Jones will get the start for Pittsburgh. This is his fourth career start and second of 2016. He went 29 of 47 for 281 yards, a touchdown and an interception against New England in a 27-16 loss in Week 7.
Fitzgerald Toussiant will likely get the bulk of the carries with Bell out. The third year back out Michigan has only 11 carries the entire season.
With Brown out, Jones will have to rely on wide receiver Eli Rogers and tight end Jesse James as his go to targets. Both don’t get nearly the recognition on offense like Brown and Bell do on the field but should get plenty on Sunday against a poor Browns secondary.
Rogers has 42 catches for 533 yards and three touchdowns in what is technically his rookie season after spending all of last year on injured reserve.
James in his second season replaced longtime Steeler Heath Miller and fans will still yell “Heath” when James gets a catch. He’s got 45 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns by at 6’7 he’s going to be a handful for the Browns linebacker corp.
Keys to the Game
Quick Decisions by Griffin
The offense was moving at a good pace in the first half last week and Griffin’s quick decision making was part of it. Whether it was throwing the ball or on the read option plays, Griffin was having success and helped the Browns put points on the board.
In the second half, Griffin held onto the ball too long leading to him having to scramble and eventually get pummeled into the ground.
The Steelers defense has feast on quarterbacks for years and continue to do so today. If Griffin doesn’t make quick throws or reads before deciding to scramble, James Harrison and the rest of the linebackers will knock Griffin out of the game quickly.
The leader of the Steelers offensive line Maurkice Pouncey will sit on Sunday, leading B.J. Finney to be the center. The Steelers offensive line has only allowed 17 sacks the entire 2016 season and didn’t allow any against the Browns in their matchup Week 11.
The Browns defense has only got to the quarterback 22 times this season. After addressing it through the draft with Emmanuel Ogbah (6 sacks) and Carl Nassib (1.5 sacks) as well as acquiring Jamie Collins from New England (2 sacks in 7 games), it’s been a major disappointment.
With Pouncey out for Pittsburgh, the chemistry with the offensive line might have some issues and with Jones under center, the Browns need to disrupt his comfort level in the pocket.
With the number one pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on the line, the Browns need to lose to clinch that pick.
But wins against Pittsburgh don’t come often and with their best players sitting out, the Browns need to attack on the opportunity to beat their former arch rival.
And a win to close out the 2017 will help build some momentum for the franchise.
Hopefully San Francisco somehow beats Seattle
Browns 21 Pittsburgh 20