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Time for the 7-8 Cleveland Browns to put up or shut up, their playoff chances depending on whether they can win out the season, which would mean that banged up QB Baker Mayfield would have to follow up his 4-interception performance last week with a huge game in front of an AFC North rival Pittsburgh crowd, also a great chance for RB Nick Chubb to shine.
The 7-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers need to win this game to even think about playing more football in January, and this game become even more special to that franchise as longtime MVP and Super Bowl QB Ben Roethlisberger is set to retire after this season so this would be the last home game of his career, a matchup in which rookie RB Najee Harris should get some carries.
These two AFC North rivals have played each other 140 prior times (including 3 postseason games), with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning 78 of those games and the Cleveland Browns winning 61 of the games, plus there has been one tie.
One thing opposing defenses figured out about the Cleveland Browns this season is that if you stuff the box and prevent them from running and invite them to beat you with QB Baker Mayfield’s passing attack, they can’t, and they have not been able to in most games now.
Some blame Mayfield’s shortcomings, others the lack of deep threat playmakers (like OBJ used to be) who keep defensive secondaries honest, and still others blame the offensive game planning and play calling of HC Kevin Stefanski, but truth is it’s probably a bit of all three.
Now with two games remaining, the Browns must figure out how an injured Mayfield (shoulder) along with his main playmakers – WR Jarvis Landry, RB Nick Chubb, TEs Austin Hooper and David Njoku, DEs Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney – can steal a win here in Pittsburgh.
The secret to stopping the Browns run game is to put more players on the line than they have and dare them to beat you with the pass, and that is most likely what the Steelers 26th ranked defense will be doing on Monday night, a plan that has worked well for other teams in the past.
Injuries and Covid have caused DC Keith Butler’s defense to struggle, his squad allowing opponents to score almost 25 points per game, though they have excelled in rushing the passer this season right now with the third-most sacks in the NFL (43) and nine team interceptions.
DTs Cam Heyward and Henry Mondeaux will have their hands full up front as the Browns offensive line (one of the best in the league) makes holes for RB Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (ankle, questionable) and trying to keep QB Mayfield safe in the pocket to make smarter throws.
One of the key team leaders on the Cleveland Browns is WR Jarvis Landry, an eight-year pro who has been with the Browns half that time, a fireball with an always-running engine and strong hands that can catch QB Mayfield’s fastballs on quick slants and easy outs.
This season Landry, the 5’ 11” 196 pound playmaker, was hurt and had to skip several games, but even still he contributed in the locker room and on the field, catching 42 balls for 452 yards and 1 touchdown this season, the team’s primary receiver now that Odell Beckham Jr. is gone.
Landry has had three 1,100+ receiving yard seasons, but two were with his former team, the Miami Dolphins, so for these last two games expect a healthy Landry to be targeted often and if he can stay on the field and add a legitimate pass threat it will help the Browns earn the win.
This will be an emotional game for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, the future Hall of Famer who has dropped major clues that this will be his final NFL season, a 39-year old vet who has been losing steam, understandable given his relative age and surgically repaired throwing arm.
Week 17 at Heinz Field will be Big Ben’s last home game, so watch for him to have a big game in front of his fans, family, and friends in attendance, the eighteen year pro now with 336 completions for 3,3373 yards and 20 touchdowns with 8 interceptions in 2021.
The Browns had best beware of the emotional advantage such a historic game can be for a team, all focused on getting their leader his win, so expect Roethlisberger to tap deep into his well of tricks and tools and have a huge game to help keep his Steelers alive.
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|Browns vs Steelers Information|
|What||Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Where||Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA|
|When||Monday, January 3, 2022; 8:15 PM ET|
|How to watch||ESPN|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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