Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday October 17th, 2010 1:00 PM EST
Line: Pittsburgh -14
The 1-4 Browns go into Pittsburgh to take on the 3-1 Steelers. On the surface, this looks like a blowout. The Steelers have been playing lights out on defense and they have had an explosive ground attack with Rashard Mendenhall. To make matters worse for the Browns, Big Ben is coming back into town after suffering a suspension. We all saw what the Steelers could do against teams without a quarterback, imagine what will happen now with a healthy defense, a reliable running back, and a quarterback with two rings at home.
Keys to the Game:
- The Browns are injured. Peyton Hillis has put the Browns on his back and carry them to a near victory multiple times this season. Hillis posted two games with over 100 yards this season. Oh ya, both of those were against division opponents. Putting up 144 yards on the ground against the Ravens defense would be a daunting task for Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson to handle. This week, Hillis is limited in practice because of the quad injury he suffered earlier in the season. After aggravating it last week, the Browns don’t want to make this injury surface later on in the season by forcing Hillis into the lineup to early. That being said, this is the Steeler game. Hillis might need to tape up his quad and get out there. If Hillis doesn’t play, they are going to have to go with Jerome Harrison. Harrison is a huge drop off, so Browns fans should expect Hillis to limp into the game, even if his role is limited.
- Colt McCoy could start. Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are listed as questionable. If rookie Colt McCoy enters the game, he could be in for a long day. In college, all he did was win football games. He has confidence in himself and is a born leader. Unfortunately, his weapons are limited. Throwing in a rookie quarterback against the Steelers defense is setting him up for failure. The Browns don’t necessarily have a choice, but this could spell disaster. As long as Colt McCoy makes quick throws and realizes the Steelers are coming from every direction, he might not be frazzled to the point where he is committing a slew of turnovers. Playing it safe is going to be crucial here. The Steelers are going to come with blitz packages that McCoy is not going to be able to decipher. He will be uncomfortable all day long, as Pittsburgh is relentless. Even the most experienced quarterbacks in the NFL have tough days against the Steelers. It will be interesting to see how Colt fares in this one.
- The Steelers had a bye week to prepare for the Browns, but this is a division game. I don’t know if you can call it a rivalry, because the Browns have been ineffective since their inception. The Browns, as bad as they are, have close games against all of their opponents. They haven’t lost by 14 points all season long. Given that this is a division game, anything can happen. While I think the Steelers should destroy the Browns, that is what I thought week 14 last year. The Browns ended up snapping a seven game losing streak by beating the Steelers outright. I know the Steelers have improved and they are at home, but my point is that you cannot underestimate the impact playing a team withing your division can have. The Browns beat the Bengals and only lost to the Ravens by a touchdown. They have played only one team with a sub .500 record all season long and they came away with a victory. Keeping it close against a formidable opponent is not anything new to the Browns.
If this game was in Cleveland, I take the Browns +14 no questions asked, Since it is in Pittsburgh, a bit more thought has to go into the selection. 14 points is a huge spread. Cleveland is riddled with injuries, but they seem to always remain competitive. Saying they are going to get blown out for the first time all year long might be justified given the Steelers recent play. It is hard for me to pick the Browns, but I just don’t think they are going to lose by 14. The Browns have covered every time they have been an underdog this season, excluding one tie. They are going to lose, but I would say ten would be a more justified spread.
Free NFL Pick: Cleveland +14