For their grand finale of the 2010-11 season, the Browns (5-10) welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) into Cleveland Brown Stadium for a divisional match up. While the Steelers will be playing to secure first place in the AFC North, and a first round bye in the playoffs, the Browns will be playing to avoid last place, and for pride, presumably. Perhaps they are even playing for their coach,Eric Mangini’s job. That will be a decision for Mike Holmgren this off-season, which will be one of many important decisions for the Browns President over the next few months. As for this game, look for the Steelers to come hard after that coveted first round bye.
Colt McCoy will be under the microscope again this week, as it will be Browns fans last chance to evaluate their rookie quarterback. Will he show enough to merit not looking into other options this off season? Has he already? McCoy has played above his experience and physical ability at times this year. Many question whether his below average arm can get the job done in cold weather, particularly in the gusty winds of Lake Erie. Well, against the Steelers fantastic run defense, McCoy will certainly be put to the test Sunday.
Another Browns rookie, Joe Haden, is just one interception off the league lead. He currently has six. If Haden can find a way to snag a pass or even two from Big Ben, who is certainly not afraid to put it up for grabs on occasion, he could sneak past Asante Samuel who currently has seven picks. Haden may garner some consideration for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but most of the votes will likely go to DT Ndamukong Suh of the Lions and CB Devin McCourty of the Patriots.
This is the time of year where wacky things can happen in the league. Certain teams might mail in a game, realizing that they will be in the playoffs one way or the other. Conversely, a team that definitely will not be in the playoffs might find themselves thinking about finding some warm weather to golf in rather than putting the type of effort forth that it takes to win an NFL game. This looks like it’s is going to be a tough game for the Browns, who can not really compete with the more talented and physically superior Steelers.
If the Browns can find a way to win, however, it would mark victories over the Patriots, Saints and Steelers this season. It would be a nice feather in Mangini’s cap to have beaten three Super Bowl favorites. In fact, at this point, I would gamble that one of those three teams will probably bring home the Lombardi Trophy about a month from now. A fate most Browns fans feel like they will never see their own team fulfill. Although, for those of us watching closely, there were small, but measurable improvements from the Browns this season. With another good draft and perhaps some continuity on the coaching staff, hopefully the 2011-12 season will bring even more improvements for the Bruising Browns.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.