Nothing is like facing a division rival for your week one game. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns will soon remember how it feels. Here are some key matchups people will need to know going into week one.
Steelers Week One: Know Your Opponent
The Steelers’ offense is one of the most terrifying passing team in the NFL when healthy. The Browns’ defense is mediocre, and the loss of Joe Haden really makes the advantage change to the Steelers that much more. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant will be covered by Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Both Taylor and Boddy-Calhoun had three interceptions last season, but this matchup will go in favor of the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and accurate. Bryant could possibly be defended well, but Antonio Brown is just too good. The only chance the Browns have of stopping Brown is with a double team. As for Pittsburgh tight ends, Jesse James will start and will be a threat to consider. The safeties of the Browns (Rookie Jabrill Peppers and second season Derrick Kindred) should be able to cover James. Despite that, the Steelers easily win this matchup.
The defensive line of the Browns is youthful and tough. Rookie Myles Garrett is going to be hard to stop. The Steelers are going to play Marcus Gilbert on him. However, Garrett is now doubtful with an ankle injury. It presents an easier matchup for both of the Steelers tackles. Danny Shelton is is another Browns lineman with much expected. He will be charging mostly Mike Pouncey. Pouncey is a tough man to get through, but Shelton should be a challenge. This Matchup is a Steelers win.
This matchup has little to no competition. The linebackers of the Browns are not enough. Starting middle linebacker Joe Schobert has experience, but he has barely played good enough for a starting role. Jamie Collins Sr. and Christian Kirksey should play well, but will he be enough? Against an offense like Pittsburgh, it seems unlikely. Le’Veon Bell should feel able to run wherever he wants, and the passing game is definitely too much. The Steelers will win this matchup.
On the opposite sides of the ball, the Browns have improved their offense greatly, while the Steelers defense, though undergoing many changes, is still exceptional. The Browns are starting rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer. There is always a risk in starting a rookie, but Kizer earned it, and Brock Osweiler was released. The Browns are hoping for a great passing season for the offense. The word “great” might not describe it, but the passing has improved. Kizer can throw some great passes, and the receivers can catch them. Kenny Britts is looking forward to a good season, as is Corey Coleman. Covering them, however, is former Brown Joe Haden and Artie Burns. Both cornerbacks are talented, but so are the receivers of the Browns. The Browns have named Randall Telfer as their starting tight end, a questionable decision. Telfer has only caught two passes for a grand total of four yards. The Steelers should cover him well, whether with linebackers or safeties. This matchup really depends on the way Kizer throws the ball. The expectation is that he will perform well, so this matchup goes to the Browns.
The offensive line of the Browns need to step it up to prepare to keep their rookie quarterback safe. The defense of the Steelers has been known to be relentless at the line of scrimmage. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt should keep the game entertaining. It is going to be good, but this matchup goes to the Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns have always looked for help from their running backs. Isaiah Crowell is undeniably still the best on the team, but Duke Johnson has improved. To have a successful running game, both backs have to first get past the menacing defensive line of the Steelers. The next worry is the linebackers. Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, and Ryan Shazier were named the top three linebackers for the Steelers, but the secondary is strong. Benching James Harrison did two things. One, the second string defense is better. Two, the Steelers can take a breather if someone gets hurt. Most likely, Crowell and Johnson won’t get far past the linebackers. It should be interesting, though. The Steelers will win this matchup.
The game is going to come down to the performances of the rookies. The Steelers are the heavily favored team, but it’s about time a miracle happened for the Browns. The question for the Browns is: Is our twenty-seven starting quarterback search finally over? The Steelers are asking this question: Have we found a suitable replacement for legend James Harrison? This season will bring change around the league. Both Pittsburgh and Cleveland ride on this season. For now, all the teams, fans, and staffs can think about is who is going to prevail in the season’s first game.