Week 17 Tale of the Tape: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackThe disaster that is the Cleveland Browns’ season is coming to an end, and if the Browns could not beat the Chicago Bears in Week 16, how are they going to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of the year? DeShone Kizer has not shown that he is capable of leading an NFL team successfully, and the Browns may have to draft another quarterback in 2018.The Steelers clinched a bye in the first round of the playoffs with their Week 16 victory over the Houston Texans. If they beat the Browns and the Patriots lose to the Jets (unlikely), they will get home field advantage in the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger is capable of standing in the pocket, shaking off the pass rush and then finding his receivers once they get open.
- OffenseThe Browns have some weapons to work with, but they have never done enough to come up with a victory that would indicate some level of competence. Isaiah Crowell is a solid runner who is not going down after first contact, while Duke Johnson has quickness and is a fine pass catcher. Josh Gordon is a big-time pass catcher who can be elite if he can stay on the field.The Steelers are a powerful offensive team with the best running back in the league in Le’Veon Bell. His unique running style allows him to overpower tacklers or speed by them. The loss of Antonio Brown (calf) will be brutal if he can’t return for the playoffs, but JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant are both capable of making big plays. Jesse James can make surprising plays as a tight end.
- DefenseThe Browns have done fairly well statistically as they rank 12th in yards allowed, but the inability of the offense has put overwhelming pressure on the defense. If the Browns are ever going to raise their level of play, the defense will almost certainly lead the way. Defensive end Myles Garrett (6.0 sacks) is on the road to becoming a superstar, while linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey are solid tacklers.The Steelers have plenty of speed and nastiness on defense, and they have improved dramatically this year. However, the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier to a severe cervical injury is likely to have an impact in the postseason. Defensive end Cameron Heyward has a team-high 10.0 sacks, while outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree both have 6.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Browns have some talented returners, but they have yet to truly assert themselves in this area. The Browns have gone with a rookie placekicker in Zane Gonzalez, and while he has not established himself as an elite kicker, he has made 14-of-19 FG attempts.The Steelers have an explosive speedster in Eli Rogers, who is capable of turning any game around with a big return. Placekicker Chris Boswell has come through in clutch situations and has made 33 of 36 FG attempts, including 4-of-4 from 50 yards and beyond.
The Steelers have substantial edges in every area, but playing without Brown and Shazier is likely to have an impact at some point. It should not be an issue this week, but the hardship is hanging over the team’s head.