STEELERS VS. BROWNS
SUNDAY, 1 P.M. ET, FIRSTENERGY STADIUM, CLEVELAND uTV: CBS, DIRECTV 707
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
About the Steelers: Expectations are high, but match the team’s talent and experience level, and the Steelers won’t be satisfied with just a return trip to the AFC Championship Game. Star RB was injured in that game and didn’t participate in camp because of a contract squabble, but he’s playing under the franchise tag and remains one of the NFL’s most dynamic players. Bell, QB and WR
form a trio as good as any around the league, and the passing game should be even more dangerous with the return of WR
from a year-long suspension. With the return of DE from injury and the addition of OLB through the draft, the Steelers think their defensive front will be much better than it was down the stretch last season.
About the Browns: The Browns see going 1-15 last season as a painful yet important piece of their latest rebuilding plan. This year’s team has the No. 1 overall pick, DE and is starting a rookie quarterback,
But overall the Browns are more mature, more talented and more ready to at least compete in the rugged AFC North. Kizer undoubtedly will have growing pains, but the defense is the expected strength of the team, and the Browns spent big in the offseason to bolster the offensive line in hopes the running game will excel and Kizer can remain upright. Expect a conservative, run-heavy game plan featuring plenty of RB
If the defense can stop the run, it will look to create sacks and turnovers. DeShone Kizer, a 2017 second-round pick, will start at quarterback for the Browns. Matchup to watch: Steelers OLB Bud Dupree vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas. Thomas remains one of the game’s best and is headed for 10,000 consecutive snaps. The Steelers need more out of the outside linebacker spot and were led in sacks by 39-yearold James Harrison, who’s still productive but shouldn’t be leading the team in that category. For the defense to take a leap, Dupree and Watt need to be solid.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
Just a week ago Haden was a locker room leader — for the Browns. But the team dumped him after he wouldn’t take a pay cut, and in a matter of hours Haden had a deal with the Steelers. The Browns think Haden can’t play at a high level anymore, but the Steelers need corners and think they’re getting a motivated player who has moved past two injury-riddled seasons.
With Haden gone and DT recovering from a knee injury and possibly still at least a week away, the Browns could have nine different defensive starters than they had on the field in last year’s season opener.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Bombs away: Bell needs to shake the rust, Bryant should be back from suspension and Brown can make plays against anyone. Roethlisberger and the Steelers will have the Browns’ remade secondary on high alert.
2. Bait the rookie: If the Steelers can get the lead, they’ll try to frustrate Kizer with blitzes and coverage he hasn’t seen. The winner of the turnover battle probably wins this game.
3. Answer the call: The Browns defense was miles ahead of the offense in the preseason, and for the Browns to win they’ll need to create momentum-changing plays and help the offense with solid field position.
4. Keep it simple: The Browns must help their rookie quarterback by running the ball well and avoiding must-pass situations.
Antonio Cam Heyward T.J. Watt Myles