BROWNS VS. STEELERS: ROUND 1!!

For those who either don’t know or are too young to know, the Browns/Steelers rivalry dates back to 1950 and is often one of the most talked-about rivalries in the NFL. Sure, the Steelers have owned the Browns since their return in 1999, but let’s not forget that this rivalry has taken a dramatic turn in the last couple of years. Especially last year when a scuffle broke out between Steeler QB Mason Rudolph and Browns DE Myles Garrett that left Garrett suspended for the remainder of the season and Rudolph a slap on the wrist and $50k fine… Even though Rudolph started it and it’s clearly on film.

No matter. This week will be different because both teams come in with winning records and are battling it out for second place in the division at the current moment. So with that being said, let’s look at the tale of the tape.

The Steelers and Browns rivalry dates back to 1950 with the Browns winning the first meeting, 30-17. The Steelers lead the all-time series 76-59-1.

Offensively: The Browns come in with the NFL’s third, that’s right folks, third-best offense and are averaging 37 points a game. The offense, led by QB Baker Mayfield, is an extremely balanced offense with a ground game that’s virtually unstoppable. Though Nick Chubb is out with an injury, the Browns still have the league’s number one overall rushing attack. RB Kareem Hunt has been more than capable of carrying the load and the offense has not slowed down at all. Add receivers Jarvis Landry, O’Dell Beckham Jr. and tight ends Austin Hooper plus David Njoku. One has a scary offense that has shown they can score at will. The Steelers, on the other hand, are ranked nineteenth offensively and average 29 points a game. Veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has shown he still has some gas left in the tank and can make plays under pressure. The Steelers have their own combo at running back with Benny Snell and James Conner and have shown they too can carry a team. The Steelers have a very talented receiving core of their own with Johnson, JUJU and an emerging rookie, Chase Claypool.

Defensively: The Browns have the NFL’s sixth-ranked rushing defense. Giving up just 87 yards a game even though the Browns have a small front seven compared to most teams. Their strength comes from the fact that they swarm to the ball. On top of that their defensive line is among the best in the entire league led by Myles Garrett. The Kryptonite for the Browns has been their passing defense which now ranks thirtieth. Though they have given up passes, they also have generated interceptions that have turned into points. The Browns also lead the league in turnovers and turnover margin and generated 12 sacks, which means they can get to the quarterback in a hurry. The Steelers are known for having one of the best defenses in the league year in and year out. With LB TJ. Watt, DT Cam Heyward, a slew of linebackers and a bolstered secondary lead by FS Minkah Fitzpatrick; the defense is always ready and hard-hitting.

I predicted this game to be a shoot out, but it could turn into a defensive game. Turnovers and ball control will be the keys to this game for both teams. The Browns will need to get to Ben early and often to keep the Steelers from getting into a rhythm. If the Browns can establish the run and control the clock then they will easily run up the score. With the Steelers, they will have to generate turnovers and keep this explosive Browns offense off the field. It seems like the Steelers save their unknown and exotic blitz packages for the Browns, so expect a lot of pressure from the Steelers to show no mercy to Baker. The unknown factor for this game is the Steelers offensive line. Their line is old and not very fast. So it will be interesting to see how they block Myles Garrett to protect an aging Ben.

If fans paid attention to last week’s game against the Colts, Myles Garrett moved all around the field. Applying pressure to Phillip Rivers from both sides. Keep an eye on this against the Steelers offensive line because I expect the browns to exploit the Steelers’ aging line.

Final Prediction: Unless there is some serious ball control, I am still going with the shootout. 38-31, BROWNS!

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