Pittsburgh and Cleveland both limp into the 2012 season finale with wounded players and wounded pride. The Steelers have lost 5 of their last 6 to be eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, the Browns had a nice midseason surge to get to a 5-8 record before having double-digit losses to Washington and Denver. Both teams are suffering from injuries at key positions. Pittsburgh will be without Heath Miller, Ike Taylor, Mike Adams, and perhaps Keenan Lewis. Cleveland has injuries to Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Colt McCoy, Joshua Cribbs, Joe Thomas, and Sheldon Brown.
Ten Fearless Predictions
1. There will be plenty of empty seats due to the frustration that Steeler Nation feels in this being a meaningless game.
2. If Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are unable to play, Thad Lewis will look like a deer in the headlights with guys like James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley breathing down his neck.
3. Ben Roethlisberger will rebound from deflating performances against Dallas and Cincinnati. His final throw in each of these games resulted directly in game-winning field goals by the Steelers’ opponents.
4. Montario Hardesty will find no room to run. The Steeler front seven played great last week in run defense (16 rushes for 14 yards). If rookie Richardson is out due to an ankle injury, Hardesty won’t exactly inspire fear in the Steeler defense.
5. The absence of Heath Miller will direct Pittsburgh’s passing game to find wide receivers more often. Miller’s unfortunate ACL, MCL, PCL tears will lead to an exhaustive offseason rehab program for the Steeler team MVP. This week, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders will see more targets because Pittsburgh’s backup tight ends (David Paulson and Leonard Pope) are not great pass-catchers or route runners.
6. Josh Gordon will be the benefactor of a Cleveland perilous QB situation. Gordon will be targeted extensively on Sunday when Lewis gets in a pinch and is forced to make a throw he is not ready to make.
7. Pittsburgh will use a 50/50 playcalling balance because they want to leave the season taking away good things from both their running and passing games.
8. Pat Shurmur is coaching his last game with the Browns. 4 wins last year, 5 (possibly 6) wins this year. A new management scheme is in place, that has promised sweeping changes. That’s never a good sign for a head coach.
9. The Steelers outgain the Browns by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio. Pittsburgh has weapons, Cleveland’s are injured. Tomlin promises to coach no differently than any other week. All that adds up to a dominant effort…unless Cleveland forces eight Pittsburgh turnovers (again).
10. Steelers 30, Browns 13. A blah game that no one will care to watch. It effectively lowers the Steelers draft pick to the 17-20 selection.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.