Cleveland Browns

Week 17 Preview: Browns vs Steelers

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The 1960 Dallas Cowboys

The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 2008 Detroit Lions

Those are the only teams to go winless in a full season since 1960. On Sunday, the 2017 Cleveland Browns (0-15) could join that infamous company with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3).

While head coach Hue Jackson and the team has stayed upbeat throughout it all, I can guarantee they’re all in fear of joining football purgatory and even with Pittsburgh’s key players not playing due to injury or rest, you can’t imagine their confidence heading into the game is high.

Jackson should coach relaxed with reports that he will remain the head coach next season despite feelings around the football landscape that general manager John Dorsey may go to Jimmy Haslam to suggest a change. I still say stay tuned on that one.

Antonio Brown is out with a calf injury meanwhile Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell will sit out despite Pittsburgh still having a chance to be the #1 seed in the AFC but they seemed to be satisfied with at least a first round bye and don’t care about potentially having homefield against New England in the AFC Championship Game.

Landry Jones will get the Week 17 start for the Steelers for the second consecutive season. Last year against Cleveland in Week 17, Jones threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-24 overtime victory.

What could give the Browns and the fans some hope is the way they played Pittsburgh back in the season opener. The Browns played Pittsburgh tough all the way to the end but it ended in a 21-18 loss mainly in part to Antonio Brown’s 11 catch, 182 yard performance that carved up the Browns secondary.

DeShone Kizer played well in his pro debut but with his “confidence” broken according to some in the locker room, I’m not sure how well he’ll play on Sunday.

Team Stats (League Rank)

Offense

Yards Per Game: CLE-304.5 ypg (27th), PIT-379.9 ypg (3rd)

Passing: CLE-197.1 ypg (26th), PIT-277.1 ypg (2nd)

Rushing: CLE-107.5 ypg (19th), PIT-102.9 ypg (20th)

Scoring: CLE-14 ppg (32nd), 25.2 ppg (7th)

Defense

Yards Per Game: CLE-326.8 ypg (12th), PIT-302.4 ypg (4th)

Passing: CLE-230.7 ypg (19th), PIT-196.3 ypg (5th)

Rushing: CLE-96.1 ypg (7th), PIT-106.1 ypg (10th)

Scoring: CLE-25.5 ppg (30th), PIT-18.9 ppg (5th)

Injury Report

Browns

Out: FB Danny Vitale (groin)

Questionable: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), RB Matthew Dayes (knee), S Derron Smith (hip), CB Jamar Taylor (foot)

Steelers

Out: WR Antonio Brown (hamstring)

Questionable: C Maurkice Pouncey (hip)

Not Expected to Play: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell

Matchup To Watch

Josh Gordon vs Joe Haden

This is a matchup Browns fans got to witness during training camp from 2012-2014 and now they’ll get to witness it during an actual game.

Of course, fans were somewhat stunned in late August when Cleveland released Haden after seven seasons but were stunned even more when he signed with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

He’s played in 10 out of 15 games due to sitting out with a broken leg and he’s just recorded 18 tackles and an interception but Steelers teammates are saying Haden is playing arguably his best football of his eight year career.

Gordon has been average since returning to the football field nearly a month ago after a three year absence and there’s a couple factors in that.

DeShone Kizer’s inaccuracy has been a big one as on 36 targets to Gordon, the duo has only connected on 14 of those but I’ve noticed something else.

Gordon’s poor hustle and drive is the same as it’s always been and it makes you wonder once again if he wants to be here. I know it’s a struggle being on a losing team but you still need to give a maximum effort and at least act like you give a damn about football instead of worrying about your image which seems like that’s been more important since his reinstatement.

General manager John Dorsey is watching the players closely and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gordon isn’t on this roster next season. If he wants to be here, he should act like it against a top corner in Haden.

Prediction

The Killer Bs not playing for Pittsburgh still won’t help the Browns cause.

I’d like to try and be positive and say the Browns will avoid the dreaded 0-16 mark but I’ve watched this team all season and I know what they are.

It’s a terrible product and even against the Pittsburgh backups, I don’t feel confident they can win with an offense that’s had 39 turnovers and a defense that’s only created 11 turnovers.

Even with Brown out, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant are good receivers and should give the Browns secondary a tough time and with the safeties playing so far back Jesse James could have another multi touchdown performance like he did Week 1.

If Cleveland can run the ball consistently in this cold weather, maybe they’ll keep it close but Hue Jackson clearly won’t change as it showed in the snow last week in Chicago.

Browns lose big and enter football purgatory.

Steelers 27 Browns 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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