Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sunday, January 1, 2017, 1 p.m. (ET)
The Steelers backups vs. Cleveland’s starters? I ended that last sentence with a question mark, because, really, in three-plus years of doing these previews, Pittsburgh has never gone into a regular season game with a playoff seed locked up and nothing to play for. With that in mind, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and I’m sure a host of others will not see the field in the regular season finale. What that means is Landry Jones will start at quarterback, Fitzgerald Toussaint will likely get the majority of carries at running back and people like Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers will be the featured receivers. As for the defensive side of things, you can probably expect the same, as it’s doubtful guys like Ryan Shazier, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and a few other key veterans will play much (if at all).
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The Steelers Win If…
Let’s face it, the Browns (1-14) are still the Browns, so no matter who is suiting up for Pittsburgh on Sunday, the paths to victory might still be pretty wide open. Cleveland is 31st on both offense and defense. The Browns are scoring 16 points a game and allowing 28.3. The Browns are a minus-nine in the takeaway/giveaway department and have allowed an astounding 62 sacks this year, while only recording 22. In other words, even with a host of backups, the Steelers, who are heavy favorites, should have little trouble winning this game.
The Steelers Lose If…
It really is hard to say. Jones hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the fans while making a few starts over the past two seasons. If those fans, who think Jones is the worst backup in the NFL, are right, you can look for the fourth-year man out of Oklahoma to struggle on Sunday, even against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
As for other reasons why Pittsburgh might lose, well, it’s hard to evaluate a game when you don’t know which players are going to play and who they’re going to be playing against.
If you start any player or any defense associated with this game, you are crazy.
What’s At Stake
Line: Steelers -9 1/2
O/U: 44 1/2
Money Line: Steelers -230/Browns +190