Steeler Nation doesn’t just reside in the surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the NFL franchise that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions are a team that always strives for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less in return. This is the ultimate Steelers Game Day Preview that all followers of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation), who covers both Pitt football and the Steelers for NGSC Sports, brings you inside the huddle for both teams with a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive game plans for success, score prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and an up to date team injury report. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.
Roethlisberger pondering on what could be his final home game at Heinz Field
The end of an era may be near.
When Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, those who watched him play at Miami of Ohio knew great things were ahead for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise.
Little did they know how amazing his accomplishments would really be.
A stellar career by Big Ben could be witnessing his final home game at Heinz Field when the Steelers (7-7-1) face off against the Cleveland Browns (7-8) at 8:15 pm Monday night.
“I would say all signs are pointing to this could be it,” Roethlisberger said Thursday.
“We still have a chance to potentially get a playoff game here,” Roethlisberger continued. “But in the grand scheme of things, in terms of the regular season, the signs are pointing that way that this could be it.”
For the Steelers to win the division and lock up one more home game, they would have to defeat both Cleveland and Baltimore to end the season, and hope the Cincinnati Bengals lose to both Kansas City and these same Browns next week.
Oh, and the Baltimore Ravens need to lose to the LA Rams on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of things,” Roethlisberger said on why this could be his final season. “It’s 18 years, it’s almost half my life I’ve given to this city and this team and the fans. The fun thing is, I know I still have it in the tank to go out there this week and next week and give it everything I have to do everything I can to get us in the postseason. That’s always the ultimate goal, to win the Lombardi, and that’s still my goal. We’re not out of this thing yet.”
If the Steelers do indeed miss the playoffs…
“If it is indeed my last regular season game there, it’s going to be one of the most important games of my career,” Roethlisberger said. “What better way to have my last regular season game than on ‘Monday Night Football’ against a division opponent. It’s just special.”
Of all the great memories, the wins, and the incredible stats #7 has piled up, Roethlisberger wants just one thing from the fans of Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been a person that I hope the fans will say that I never quit,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve given everything I have. Shoot, last week I was begging to get back in the game down 30 with nine minutes to go. Coach let me go in that series, but not the next one.
“I just don’t know how to quit. I’m going to give everything I have to this game, this team, this season, and just really enjoy what I think, like I said, is the best fans and the best place to play in all of football.”
As for Roethlisberger’s teammates, Najee Harris isn’t feeling any extra pressure to win this game vs the Browns. He just wants to get another victory.
“Why’s it got to be pressure? Why can’t you just go out there and have a mindset to win the game?” Harris said. “I think the word ‘pressure’ is kind of overrated, in a way. If you just put all that stuff aside and just go out there and execute and do your assignments, then there should be no pressure, really.”
Count Roethlisberger’s #1 receiver in Diontae Johnson as someone who is ready to lay it on the line Monday night, especially if it’s the last home game of the year, and Big Ben’s overall.
“We’ve been doing that all year, not knowing if this is his last year or not,” Johnson said. “We just go out there and try to make him look good. Whether it’s a bad throw or good throw, we’re going to make a play on the ball, regardless. We’re going to go out with a bang, regardless. We try not to think about it. We’ll worry about that at the end of the season. I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing.”
The Browns have been terrorized by Roethlisberger since he entered the league in 2004, seeing Pittsburgh’s #7 stack 25 victories against them, and players like Harris are ready to do what it takes to make it win #26, and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“This being my rookie year and this being his last year, I guess it means a lot,” Harris said. “Just because of what he means to the city, and just to the game of football. He’s done a lot for the game. I’m glad I can be a part of it.”
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- Fire Matt Canada: It’s not going to happen this week, but Canada and his offense needs to disappear. Unfortunately, his system has hamstrung Ben Roethlisberger and the entire offense all year.
- Score: It’s that simple… to win, this offense, weighed down by Canada or not, will have to overcome it’s deficiencies and get the ball into the endzone. It would be nice if the keys to the car were handed to Big Ben and turn him loose, but don’t hold your breath.
- Bring the heat: Baker Mayfield doesn’t do well under pressure, so injuries and all, the defense, led by T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward, are going to have to suck it up and make Mayfield’s life hell Monday night. It would also be beneficial to tackle and for the defense to maintain gap control, or Nick Chubb will be running the ball down their collective throats all night.
This Pittsburgh team is impossible to have any confidence in, yet when you think of how dominant both Ben Roethlisberger and Steelers overall have been since the early 1990’s against the hapless Cleveland Browns, you can’t help but believe the Steelers can overcome all of their problems and torture the Browns one final time.
It’s going to be a prime time game on Monday night, and it could be the final time future HOF quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will ever walk out of the tunnel as a player at Heinz Field.
The Browns would be smart to hand the ball to Nick Chubb about 30 times and let him and their offense control to ball and rack up tons of yardage against a pathetic run defense that has plagued the Steelers for months, but the Browns are prone to doing the dumbest of things, which is why they currently have a 7-8 record and likely miss the playoffs after they had so much hope entering the 2021 season.
If this is going to be Big Ben’s last hurrah at Heinz Field, he won’t be leaving the field with his head down. Like so many times before, #7 will find a way to stick it to Cleveland, and ensure his final game at home was a victorious one… Steelers 24 Browns 20
Game Day Information
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns
- Vegas line: Cleveland -3.5
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Field: Kentucky Blue Grass
Game-time: Monday, January 3rd, 8:15 PM.
- Announcers: Steve Levy (play-by-play) Brian Griese (analyst) Louis Riddick (analyst) | Lisa Salters (reporter)
Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM
- Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Craig Wolfley (analyst) | Max Starks (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
- Announcers: (play-by-play) (analyst) | (reporter)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: 27 and clear. Winds out of the West at 5 MPH.
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 7-7-1 (3rd in AFC North)
Last game: Kansas City 36 Steelers 10
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 152-85-2
- Playoff record: 8-8 (Qualified for playoffs 9 times)
- 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster
- Steelers Team/Individual Statistics
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Schedule
- Points per game: 20.1
- Total yards per game: 316.5
- Passing yards per game: 228.9
- Rushing yards per game: 87.6
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Not many…
- Weaknesses: Matt Canada’s inept offense. Scoring. Attacking downfield via pass. Young offensive line.
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 3,373 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has been sacked 35 times. Big Ben is best suited dropping back to pass around 25-30 times a game. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger has lost his mobility that made him one of the best out of the pocket passers in the league, and thanks to Matt Canada, he rarely attempts long passes downfield anymore, which was once a staple of his game.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr., Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
- Rookie Najee Harris is showing why the Steelers drafted him in the first round, and has rushed for 984 yards and six touchdowns this year. Harris is 2nd on the team with 67 catches for 422 yards and three touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Cody White.
- Diontae Johnson leads the team with 92 catches for 1,079 yards and seven touchdowns. Chase Claypool is the Steelers deep threat, and has 51 receptions for 806 yards and a touchdown. James Washington has caught 24 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Ray-Ray McCloud has 31 receptions for 205 yards. Cody White will look to make the most of his chances, if any.
Tight Ends: Pat Friermuth, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, and Kevin Rader.
- Pat Friermuth has passed Ebron on the depth chart, and has 49 receptions for 422 yards and seven touchdowns. Zach Gentry has logged 10 catches for 97 yards. Eric Ebron has 12 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
- Extra Points: 24-26
- Field Goals: 28-31
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 7-7
- 30-39 yards: 6-7
- 40-49 yards: 9-11
- 50+ yards: 7-8
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
- Points per game allowed: 24.7
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 368.4
- Passing yards allowed: 225.7
- Rushing yards allowed: 142.7
- Sacks: 43
- Interceptions: 9
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Great pass rush lead by T.J. Watt.
- Weaknesses: DE Stephon Tuitt is still on IR. Bad tackling and communication has lead to some blown plays this year. Rush defense has been an embarrassment.
DE: Cam Heyward | DT: Isaiah Buggs | DE: Chris Wormley.
- Cam Heyward has 8 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 79 tackles. Chris Wormley is in for starter Stephon Tuitt, who is out indefinitely.
OLB: T.J. Watt | ILB: Devin Bush | ILB: Joe Schobert | OLB: Alex Highsmith.
- Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leads the team with 17.5 sacks and 54 tackles. Devin Bush has been a disappointment all year, and has 66 tackles and two sacks., Joe Schobert, a Pro Bowler acquired from Jacksonville, is 2nd the team with 108 tackles. Alex Highsmith has 64 tackles and four sacks.
CB: Joe Haden | SS: Terrell Edmunds | FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick | CB: Cameron Sutton/Ahkello Witherspoon
- Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will be at the corners with Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and Terrell Edmunds at strong safety. CB James Pierre will see plenty of field time in the nickle. Fitzpatrick is 1st on the team with 114 tackles and has two interceptions. Edmunds has one of Pittsburgh’s nine interceptions. Ahkello Witherspoon has two interceptions.
Steelers Special Teams
Punter: Pressley Harvin III
Kickoff Returners: Ray-Ray McCloud and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud
Scouting report: McCloud is averaging 22.2 yard per kickoff return and 9.5 yards per punt return.
Scouting the Cleveland Browns
Overall record: 7-8 (4th in AFC North)
Last game: Green Bay 24 Cleveland 22
Head coach: Kevin Stefanski (2nd season with Cleveland)
- Overall regular-season record: 15-8 | 15-8 with Cleveland
- Points per game: 20.9
- Total Offense per game: 362.1
- Passing yards per game: 217.2
- Rushing yards per game: 144.9
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Nick Chubb leads a great running game when utilized.
- Weaknesses: Baker Mayfield turns the ball over way too much. Mayfield has been sacked 34 times.
Starting Quarterback: Baker Mayfield | Back-up: Case Keenum
- Baker Mayfield has thrown for 2,825 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Mayfield has been sacked 34 times, and has rushed for 118 yards and a score.
Starting Running Back: Nick Chubb | Back-up: Kareem Hunt*, D’Ernest Johnson, and Dometric Felton
- Nick Chubb has 1.143 yards with eight touchdowns. Chubb also has 19 receptions for 172 yards and a score. With Kareem Hunt out, D’Ernest Johnson will see plenty of time on the field. Johnson has 398 yards on the ground and two TD’s. Dometric Felton is mainly used as a pass catcher out of the backfield, and has caught 16 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receivers: Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, and Anthony Schwartz.
- Jarvis Landry has caught 42 passes for 452 yards and a score. Donovan Peoples-Jones has 28 catches for 483 yards and a team leading three touchdowns. Rashard Higgins has 23 catches for 267 yards and a score. Anthony Schwartz has caught nine passes for 122 yards.
Tight Ends: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant.
- David Njoku is 3rd the team with 436 yards receiving off of 30 receptions. Austin Hooper has 36 catches for 317 yards and three TD’s. Harrison Bryant has contributed 19 catches for 223 yards and a pair of scores.
Placekicker: Chase McLaughlin
- Extra Points: 31-32
- Field Goals: 15-21
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 3-3
- 30-39 yards: 4-4
- 40-49 yards: 4-10
- 50+ yards: 4-4
Browns Defense (Base 4-3)
- Points per game allowed: 21.9
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 321
- Passing yards allowed: 215.1
- Rushing yards allowed: 105.9
- Sacks: 37
- Interceptions: 12
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Tough against the run and a good pass rush behind Myles Garrett.
- Weaknesses: Secondary can be carved up by the right quarterback and offense.
Defensive Line: Myles Garrett has 49 tackles and 15 sacks. Jadeveon Clowney has 29 tackles and 5.0 sacks.
Linebackers: Anthony Walker, Jr. leads the team with 97 tackles. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has 65 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Secondary: Safety John Johnson III has 57 tackles and three interceptions. Corner Greedy Williams has two interceptions and 40 tackles.
Browns Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Anthony Schwartz
Punt Returner: Dometric Felton
Scouting report: Anthony Schwartz is averaging 21.1 yards per kickoff return. Dometric Felton is averaging 7.1 yards per punt return.
Steelers vs Browns History
Series History: Began in 1950
Overall Record: 78-61-1
- Home: 49-22
- Away: 29-39-1
- Postseason: 2-1
Streak: Steelers won the last game.
Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 15-10 (Oct. 31, 2021)
Last postseason meeting: Browns Win, 48-37 (Jan. 10, 2021)
Injury Report (1/2/22)
- Out: LB Buddy Johnson (Foot)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: P Pressley Harvin (NIR- Personal/Illness), C Kendrick Green (Calf)
- Reserve/COVID-19 List: CB Arthur Maulet, DL Chris Wormley, LB Joe Schobert
- Out: CB Troy Hill (Knee), S Ronnie Harrison, Jr. (Ankle), S John Johnson III (Hamstring)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: RB Kareem Hunt (Ankle), DT Malik Jackson (Knee)
- Reserve/COVID-19 List:
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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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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