Normally, this is where I’d try to write something funny about the impending embarrassment I feel in anticipation of a Browns/Steelers game. But, and I’m asking you to hear me out, I actually think the Browns could have a shot tonight, if they can avoid shooting themselves in the collective foot. No, I’m not drinking this early. Why do you ask?
The Browns’ offense looked like they had made a little progress. I know you can’t look at the fourth quarter when the Chargers were playing a glorified prevent without Quentin Jammer, but even still Brady Quinn looked more comfortable, the Browns receivers caught passes, they had a tight end who managed to get open in the middle of the field and actually catch the ball, and there was a *gasp* Brian Robiskie sighting. The Steelers are staggering right now, having lost four straight. No Polamalu. Possibly no Whines Hard. Another injury (William Gay) to an already reeling secondary. So you’re saying there’s a chance… Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they somehow manage to realize the gravity of this rivalry for themselves. If they go out there and play like a team possessed and a team that will not be denied, they have a chance. These are two banged up teams. The Steelers are on a horrendous losing streak and are still 10 point favorites, I believe. That is understandable. Still, if this actually ends up looking like a rivalry game (which it hasn’t in many many years) the Browns will find themselves with a chance to win. Of course it also helps that William Gay, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu are either out or questionable.
Scott: …lose. If they lose, they’ll secure a better draft spot. There, I said it. Last year, we were terrible, but not terrible enough to garner a top-four selection when there were arguably only three or four top picks. From five on, things could have gone any way – and they did. Just ask Denny. There seems to be more and more of a consensus that Ndamukong Suh is the second coming, and I want that. I want someone that can pressure the quarterback, plug up the run, and have a freaking sweet name. In fact, from this point forward, I only want guys with one syllable last names. Cribbs. Mack. Quinn (if we must). Our roster will look like a giant Phish setlist. That’s when we win. Trust me, I want them to win the game. I’d love it if they did – the fans need a win. But if they win, they may not exactly “win.” When you’re a team this bad, “winning” may be more important in the long run.
DP: …they play totally mistake-free football. It’s a tall order, especially for this defense which is held together with practice squaders and duct tape. But, the Steelers’ secondary is vulnerable with no Polamalu and probably no William Gay (concussion). The Browns passing “attack” (I know, I know) looked much improved last week against San Diego, though much was admittedly in garbage time. The guys that stepped up out of basically nowhere on Sunday—Evan Moore, Brian Robiskie—need to do so again. The Browns also need to eat up as much time of possession as possible to keep the Steelers’ offense off the field. If the Browns can score in the mid- to high-20s, I give them a puncher’s chance in this game.
Rick: …they can run the ball effectively and create some turnovers. I don’t know why, but this game feels winnable right now. The Steelers could absolutely come out and crush us, but they could just as easily figure this game is in the bag. Yes, losses to Kansas City and Oakland shouldn’t have happened and maybe they will be more hungry than ever. But you have to think that they have a different confidence about this game. It’s kind of like the big brother just knowing he can whip the little brother whenever he feels like it. One day the little brother always gets his. Man I hate that we are the little brother…
TD: …the weather continues down this horrific path. If Ben Roethlisberger cannot get the passing game going and the Steelers are forced to run, the Browns can stay in this game. Big Ben is at his best when he gets time to throw the deep ball. Tonight, they may not be able to happen. Consider also that the Steelers will most likely be without their #1 possession receiver in Hines Ward. They will have to lean on RB Rashard Mendenhall and their average offensive line. The Browns passing game under Brady Quinn features the dink and dunk. That is the exact kind of passing attack that can work in these conditions. Make things happen on the screens with Jerome Harrison. The Wildcat with Josh Cribbs should also be a major part of the offensive game plan on a night like this. Lets be honest, if it isn’t, Brian Daboll should be fired tomorrow. With winds gusting and the temperatures expected to be in the high teens, you have got to be able to run the ball effectively. Cribbs and the Wildcat should get extensive use. The Steelers are desperate for a win and the Browns showed some improvement during the fourth quarter in Sunday’s loss to San Diego. Am I crazy to think the Browns may keep it close? Probably.
Denny: …if the Steelers’ offense struggles mightily, and the Browns offense from last week shows up. The Browns showed they aren’t quitters last week, and could collectively work to get the team into the value range of the draft. The Steelers are legitimately beatable. I’m too distracted by the term ‘legitimately beatable’ to continue.
Now, for the other side of the coin. I don’t like Steelers fans, so I didn’t reach out to anyone. But Scott, being ever more diplomatic than myself, reached out to Michael Tunison. Sir Tunison is known as Christmas Ape on the incredibly popular NFL blog Kissing Suzy Kolber. His work can also be found at The Sporting Blog, he has guest edited at Deadpsin and has a book titled The Football Fan’s Manifesto that can be purchased at Amazon.com. Oh, and he’s a diehard Steeler’s fan. Here’s his take…
The Steelers Will Win If…
So maybe Tomlin’s sloganeering didn’t work so well for beating the lowly Raiders. But now he has an even more canny strategy for Thursday: starting rookie cornerback, even Joe Burnett, who dropped what would have been a winning interception against Oakland on their final drive. This is it, Cleveland: the best chance you’re going to have to beat the Steelers for years, decades even. Pittsburgh is on the ropes! Big Ben and Hines are exchanging catty comments! They are vulnerable like never before!
And after a record eight consecutive games of surrendering either a defensive or special teams TD, the Steelers have gone TWO WHOLE GAMES without doing that. Sure, they’ve lost both anyway, but that also means they’re cracking down on the chances of Josh Cribbs taking one to the house, which has long been the best scoring option for the Browns against Pittsburgh. Unless, y’know, they want to pick on those crappy mid-round rookies covering Cleveland’s receivers. But Mangini is just smart enough to not do that.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?