Ugh. That last-second loss had to hurt.
The Steelers lost late to the Dallas Cowboys, and their extra point philosophy could be to blame.
Still, when NFL stands for Not For Long, the best thing to do is move forward. Pittsburgh is only one game behind in their division, and the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens face the league-leading Cowboys next. If the Cowboys stick to their winning ways, the Steelers can catch up with a win this week.
To top it off, they’re facing the worst team in the league, the 0-10 Cleveland Browns, who are fresh off being utterly demolished by the same teams that beat Pittsburgh the last two weeks. There’s plenty of game tape for the Steelers to draw on.
We’ll start with the obvious: the Browns have a weak passing game. It’s not necessarily a bad passing game, third round pick Cody Kessler has been a welcome surprise, with solid passing stats across the board (66.9% completion rate, 95.7 passer rating, 6 TDs against his one INT). Kessler hasn’t been explosive either, with a mere 222 passing yards per game for the team and only one game above 300 yards.
This leaves the Steelers free to key on the run game, and while that didn’t work last week, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are not as good as Ezekiel Elliott. They should be able to completely shut this offense down until the game is already over, no matter how bad their defense is.
On defense, the Browns are 31st in the league in points, total yards per game, and rushing yards allowed per game. They are only 26th in passing yards allowed, but that may be because opposing teams throttle back after taking leads like 21-7 (Baltimore), 28-10 (Dallas), or 28-17 (Cincinnati).
Even in the loss, Pittsburgh flashed its offensive power. Ben Roethlisberger is back from injury, Antonio Brown is still impossible to cover, and Le’Veon Bell is in top form. Even though they’re on the road and facing a division rival, there’s no way this offense struggles.
It won’t be a 35-10 blowout like the Browns faced a couple of weeks ago, but it will be a one-sided victory in favor of the Steelers. Expect an early lead, something like 17-3 or 20-7 at the half, and then a quick game the rest of the way as Bell pounds the rock and burns the clock, breaking the losing streak and bringing Pittsburgh back to .500.
They’ll be tied for the division lead at 5-5, all the panic without Ben forgotten, and for Steelers fans, all will be right with the world.