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Inside the Steelers: Steelers vs Browns Preview

One upon a time, a sense of excitement permeated the air all week in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers were scheduled to play their most bitter of rivals, the Cleveland Browns.

About a two hour drive separates the cities from each other (shave off a half hour if I’m driving), and the general dislike for each another is very real.

Since the mid-90’s, however, the Browns have become more of a punchline than an actual threat to the Steelers and their fan base.

Before the Chuck Noll Era, the Browns dominated the Steelers year in and year out. When Chuck Noll arrived, his Super Steelers only managed a 25-21 record against Cleveland. When Noll retired in 1991, the Browns all-time record against Pittsburgh was 50-34.

Then Bill Cowher arrived, and since then, the Steelers have been Michael Myers to the Browns, an unstoppable killing force that has seen the Steelers go 31-7 against them since 1992, not including two playoff victories, and seeing the all-time record now standing in favor of the Steelers at 65-57.

Ben Roethlisberger, an Ohio native, owns a 17-1 record against them, including 9-0 at Heinz Field.

Rivalry? Look, the bug, does not share a rivalry with the windshield.

Baltimore, which is really the Browns in purple uniforms, is now the Steelers main rival.

Though the fans still consider this game a true rivalry, until Cleveland starts putting up a few victories against Pittsburgh with some consistency, it’s just another game for the Steeler’s players.

Game Preview

Sunday, September 7, 1:00pm at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs Cleveland Browns (0-0)

Steelers favored by 7.

Cleveland

The Browns are hoping that quarterback Johnny Manziel will pump some life back into the once proud franchise. The Browns have a solid offensive line headlined by 7-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas. Last season, wide receiver Josh Gordon was a Pro Bowler, leading the league with 1,646 receiving yards off of 87 receptions, 9 of those for touchdowns. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Gordon is suspended for the entire 2014 season for substance abuse, leaving Cleveland perilously thin at the position. Miles Austin is the only recognizable name among the group.

Manziel should see the field at some time during the game, but as of now, Brian Hoyer is the starter. Ben Tate starts at running back and will be spelled by Terrance West.

The Browns best weapon is undoubtedly Jordan Cameron, who is fast becoming one of the best tight ends in the game. It’s not a particularly frightening offense.

Defensively, the Browns are headlined by corner Joe Haden, who will have the assignment most of the day covering Antonio Brown. Expect Cleveland to blitz early and often against the Steelers.

Mike Pettine, who was the Bills Defensive Coordinator last year, is the new Head Coach of the Browns.

Pittsburgh

The Steelers, who didn’t win a game in September last season, are looking to get off to a fast start in 2014, as they possess a favorable schedule early on. Pittsburgh does face a quick turnaround time as they will travel to Baltimore just 4 days later to play the Ravens on September 11.

Ben Roethlisberger is eager to take the field and test out the no-huddle offense he has pushed for. With an array of weapons at his disposal, this has the propensity to be a career year for Big Ben and the Steelers offense. One of his favorite targets, Heath Miller is fully healthy again at tight end and should have a solid year. Antonio Brown has solidified himself as one of the game’s best wide receivers. Lance Moore, formerly of the Saints, should be Mr. Dependable for Roethlisberger, just as Jerricho Cotchery was last year. 2nd year wide-out Markus Wheaton is looking to step up and take the reigns as the Steelers #2 WR. With his speed and route running ability, he should take over nicely for the departed Manny Sanders. Darrius Heyward-Bey will see time as well.

Though the Steelers have the capability of airing out the football, they will certainly be looking look to establish the running game once again. Once a staple of the Steelers, the team finished 27th last season with just 1,383 yards. That is unacceptable in Steelers Country. Le’Veon Bell will be the clear cut starter, and has all the the tools to make himself a star in the league. LaGarrette Blount will back Bell up and will see ample time on the field as well. Rookie speedster Dri Archer will also have the opportunity to make a name for himself, as the Steelers are planning to utilize him in a variety of ways.

The offense line welcomes the return of Maurkice Pouncey at center. The line, now coached by Hall of Fame Guard Mike Munchak, has the makings of a strong unit. Ramon Foster and David DeCastro start at guard, and Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert round out the group at tackle.

On the flip side side of the ball, the Steelers will employ a revamped defense that has been infused with plenty of new speed that should make defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau very happy. Mike Mitchell replaces Ryan Clark at FS. Rookies Ryan Shazier at linebacker, and Stephon Tuitt at defensive end, have been added to the starting unit. Shazier has all of the makings of the next great Steelers linebacker. Cam Heyward is fast becoming one of the best DE’s in the game and will look to continue that trend. The Steelers will be looking for Steve McClendon and rookie Daniel McCullers to plug the middle of the defensive line, and be more than just adequate against the run.

The key to success in LeBeau’s defense has always been creating chaos, especially in reaching the quarterback with urgency. The time has come for OLB Jarvis Jones to live up to his 1st Round selection in 2013. The Steelers are also hoping the Jason Worilds picks up where he left off in 2013. Lawrence Timmons is the leader of the LB’s, and is set for another great season.

Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor start at the corners. Troy Polamalu, as always, will be out there terrorizing offenses at SS.

Overall, the offense may have to be the strength of this team until the defense solidifies with all of the new talent. If this team comes together, it will be a fun one to watch.

Prediction: Steelers 27 Browns 6

 

Game Notes:

* WR Martavis Bryant is unlikely to play due to shoulder injury.

* Sunday will be Chuck Noll Day, as the Steelers honor the legendary coach who passed away in the off season. The Steelers will also wear “CHN” decals on their helmets to honor the coach that brought the Steelers into prominence.

* This will be Mike Tomlin’s 8th season as Steelers Head Coach. His record is 71-41, including 42-15 at home. Coincidentally, Bill Cowher had the same record after his first seven seasons as Steelers HC.

* Be sure to check out Pittsburgh SportsNation’s new Steelers video 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers: Rise of an Empire

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!

From Midland, “The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania”, located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.


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