One of the NFL's most storied rivalries writes a new chapter when the Cleveland Browns (5-10) meet the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) for the 122nd time.
Cleveland comes to Pittsburgh looking to earn its second win over the Steelers this season after beating their rival at home in Week 12. That win led to a three-game winning streak that had to be the highlight of the Browns season before they dropped the last two games by double-digits to the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos.
With new owner Jimmy Haslam in town, it would appear that changes are on the horizon for the organization. This could be head coach Pat Shurmur's last chance to make an impression on his new boss. Another ugly loss would seal his fate if he isn't already destined to be fired anyway.
The Steelers will be looking for some sense of redemption after losing a heartbreaker to Cincinnati that officially eliminated them from the playoffs.
With nothing but pride on the line, here's everything you need to know about this classic rivalry matchup.
Where: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
When: Sunday, Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS, DIRECTV: 714, NFL Redzone or online at Game Rewind
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 91 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: Pittsburgh -7 (via Covers)
The Steelers are favored by a touchdown in this one, as they are home and neither team has looked impressive in recent weeks.
The Browns were carved up by Peyton Manning and the Broncos last week, but more telling was their loss the previous week to a Kirk Cousins-led Washington Redskins team. Despite some bright spots, the Browns are playing their worst football all season.
Pittsburgh isn't playing much better, but it was at least competitive against Cincinnati in Week 16 and has had the better season overall.
At the time of this publication an over/under had not been set by any major sites.
When a total number is finally set, it's probably best to go the under. Odds are Vegas can't figure out just how low this one should be. Neither offense strikes fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators.
Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports as of 12/28/2012)
|Joe Thomas T||Probable||Back|
|Phil Taylor DT||Probable||Knee, calf|
|Trent Richardson RB||Probable||Chest, rib, finger|
|Juqua Parker DE||Probable||Knee|
|Ryan Miller T||Probable||Not injury related|
|Shawn Lauvao G||Probable||Head, foot|
|Montario Hardesty RB||Probable||Knee|
|Joshua Cribbs WR||Probable||Knee|
|Oniel Cousins T||Probable||Shin|
|Travis Benjamin WR||Probable||Finger|
|Alex Smith TE||Questionable||Illness, knee|
|Frostee Rucker DE||Questionable||Shoulder, hip|
|Ishmaa'ily Kitchen DT||Questionable||Calf|
|Tashaun Gipson S||Out||Foot|
|Jordan Cameron TE||Out||Head|
|Mike Adams T||Doubtful||Ankle|
|Al Woods DE||Probable||Illness|
|Emmanuel Sanders WR||Probable||Rib|
|Maurkice Pouncey C||Probable||Illness|
|Troy Polamalu S||Probable||Not injury related|
|Keenan Lewis CB||Probable||Hip|
|Cameron Heyward DE||Probable||Not injury related|
|James Harrison LB||Probable||Illness|
|Curtis Brown CB||Probable||Knee|
|Cortez Allen CB||Probable||Groin|
Fantasy Big Plays
Cleveland: K Phil Dawson
The fact that kicker Phil Dawson is all but guaranteed to be the top fantasy scorer this week is all you really need to know about this Browns offense.
There's potential Thaddeus Lewis will be the starter at quarterback which saps just about any value that may be found in tight end Benjamin Watson or wide receiver Josh Gordon. Pittsburgh has one of the best run defenses in the league so the odds that running back Montario Hardesty or banged-up back Trent Richardson get anything going are unlikely.
If the Browns are able to move the ball at all, it's likely that they'll call on Dawson to put it through the uprights. When that happens, he scores—he's missed one field goal all season.
Projected Stats: 2/2 FGs
Pittsburgh: WR Antonio Brown
The Steelers offense hasn't been great this season, but one positive all season has been Antonio Brown at receiver.
Brown has been awesome for fantasy owners—especially in the playoff stretch when it really matters. The speedy Brown has big-play potential and has scored a touchdown in each of his last three games.
Considering the Browns secondary is fairly weak outside of Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, Brown should have plenty of opportunities to score on Sunday.
Projected Stats: Seven receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
Key to Victory
Steelers Ball Security
Simply put, if the Steelers take care of the ball, they win this one easily.
The Browns pulled off the upset in Week 12 because they were able to force eight turnovers. While some credit must be given to the Browns defense for forcing those turnovers, that's a poor offensive performance from Pittsburgh.
It's important to note that Charlie Batch was the quarterback for the Steelers in that game.
With Roethlisberger back at the helm for the Steelers this time, a dedication to holding onto the ball must be the priority. As banged up as Cleveland is offensively, it will be difficult for the offense to score points unless it is put in advantageous positions from turnovers once again.
It's unlikely that the Browns are able to force eight turnovers again and they needed every one of them last time around.
The Steelers season is over, but they should be motivated to come out and end the season with a win over a rival that got the better of them earlier in the season. With Roethlisberger healthy, the Steelers offense should do enough to win this one.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 6