Behind Enemy Lines: Cleveland Browns
Steelers vs Cleveland Browns, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA, Sunday 1:00 p.m. CBS
All-time regular season series: The Steelers lead the all-time series 64-57, and 40-21 in Pittsburgh.
Last Meeting: Nov 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Browns won 20-14.
PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers square off in the season finale for the 3rd straight year. The Browns are looking for a series sweep against the Steelers for the 1st time since 1988. Both teams have been officially eliminated from any playoff hopes and are now playing for pride and auditions for next season. Had the Browns won last week against Denver, they would be playing for 3rd place in the division standings. Cleveland has not finished ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings since the 1989 season.
The two teams are going in two different directions this season. Cleveland has a young team that got off to a slow start, but has won 3 times since Thanksgiving. The Steelers on the other hand have been battling injury and getting a little long in the tooth at certain positions and have lost 5 of 6 since starting the season 6-3.
Both teams have injuries that will keep key players out of the season finale. The Steelers will be without Pro-Bowl tight end Heath Miller, corner back Ike Taylor and running back Baron Batch, all who have been placed on Injured Reserve this week. The Browns will be without linebacker Usama Young and could also be without rookies, Trent Richardson at running back and Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Neither have practiced yet this week, but also neither have been ruled out for Sunday.
Offensive Player to Watch: Greg Little, Wide Receiver
If Weeden and Richardson are both out on Sunday the Browns will be looking to their receivers to make some plays on offense. Greg Little is the Browns top receiver and in just his 2nd year is continuing to improve. Little has 50 catches for 3 touchdowns this season and 111 for 5 scores in his career. He had only 1 catch for 6 yards in the Browns win earlier this season against Pittsburgh.
Defensive Player to Watch: Juqua Parker, Defensive End
Parker is far from a tackle machine for the Browns, but it seems like every time he does make a tackle it is a high impact play. Parker only has 16 tackles on the year, but 9 of them have come behind the line of scrimmage. Parker leads the Browns with 6 sacks and also has forced 2 fumbles this season, 1 of which came in the Steelers 8 turnover game November 25th.
The Browns have been building and rebuilding every year it seems, but this year it looks a little different from years past. The Browns used their first 2 draft picks in April to address gaping holes at the running back and quarterback spot. The team’s top two receivers are also young and up and coming players. Most importantly is that with all of these young players, the Browns have been playing well. Prior the past 2 weeks, in which the Browns have lost by a combined 39 points, Cleveland had won 3 straight games. In the 5 games prior to that win streak the Browns either won or had a chance to win in the 4th quarter of all of those games.
Brandon Weeden is still going through some big-time growing pains as a rookie in the NFL, despite being 29 years old. If Weeden is unable to go Sunday, it will be Colt McCoy who has not had the NFL career he had hoped for coming out of Texas.
He Said It:
“I think any time the Browns and the Steelers are getting together it’s not a meaningless game, when you play your number-one biggest rival. I know people have said there are no playoff implications but this game still means a lot to both of these teams, to both of these cities. These teams are definitely going to be ready to play, no matter what is at stake playoff-wise.” – Pro-Bowl Offensive Tackle, Joe Thomas, regarding playing in a meaningless game when it comes to playoff implications.