The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6), who travel to Cleveland to play the Browns (3-12) in Week 17 of the 2015 NFL season, have a shot at the playoffs. For the Steelers to make it to the post season they must beat the Browns and the Jets have to lose to the Bills. Pittsburgh comes to this game a 10-point favorite. It’s almost a given that they will win. But they still have to play the game and beat the Brown to have any chance at making the final AFC wild card.
This season, Pittsburgh has played inconsistently. They have struggled, dealing with injury issues, inadequacies in their field goal unit, and too many missed offensive opportunities. The Browns have had their troubles too, including injuries and controversy at quarterback. Troubled, bad boy signal caller Johnny Manziel is slated to start on Sunday. But it’s reported that he’s dealing with possible concussion symptoms and may not be able to play. QB Josh McCown, a reliable starter, is out for the season with a clavicle injury. That means that fourth-year backup Austin Davis may get the start.
After losing to Seattle 39-30 on November 29, the Steelers won three straight. In that time, they beat Indiana 45-10, Cincinnati 33-20, and Denver 34-27. Pittsburgh looked to be in control. That is until last week when the Baltimore Ravens upset them 20-17. The Steelers were favored in that game by 11.5 points. If they had beaten the Ravens, Pittsburgh would be in much better shape as far as their playoff hopes are concerned.
The Browns have lost four of their last five contests. The club last won on December 13, beating San Francisco 24-10. Recent losses have been to Baltimore 33-27, Cincinnati 27-3, Seattle 30-13, and last week Kansas City 17-13. If anything, Cleveland has been consistent in their inability to mount any type of ground attack and their ineffectiveness on defense against the run.
This game is simply Pittsburgh’s to win or lose. They are a superior club. The biggest problem on offense is that QB Ben Roethlisberger has been prone to toss the pick. In his last five games, he’s thrown seven interceptions; that’s half his total for the season. He’s going to have to do a lot better against the Browns to assure a Steeler win.
Roethlisberger’s primary receivers are Antonio Brown (123 REC, 13.4 AVG, 9 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (49 REC, 15.6 AVG, 6 TDs). The Pittsburgh offense also has a solid running game, featuring DeAngelo Williams (899 YDs, 4.6 AVG, 11 TDs) and Le’Velon Brown (556 YDs, 4.9 AVG, 3 TDs). This offensive group of receivers and running backs is a major reason why the Steelers are averaging 26.3 PPG. Cleveland will have a tough time stopping them. The Browns are allowing opponents almost 27 PPG.
Also, when it comes to scoring points the Browns won’t find it easy keeping up with Pittsburgh. The team from Cleveland is scoring an average of 17.7 PPG. That’s the lowest offensive output in the AFC and third lowest in the league.
If they do have any offense on Sunday, it will be due to the ability of either Manziel or Davis to connect with TE Gary Barnidge (71 REC, 13.8 AVG, 9 TDs) and WR Travis Benjamin (63 REC, 14.5 AVG, 5 TDs). But that won’t be easy as you can expect the Steeler defense, which comes into the game with 41 sacks, 15 interceptions, and 13 forced fumbles of which they’ve recovered 11, to control a very weak and ineffective Brown offense.
Pittsburgh easily handled Cleveland in November, beating them 30-9. With all of the question marks hovering around the Browns, plus their lack of both defense and offense, we see this as an easy win for the Steelers. Take Pittsburgh at -10.0 and go with the under at 47.5.