There is no rest for the weary in Cleveland. Coming off our first win this season at Orchard Park last weekend (our forecasted headline was only half accurate as Ralph Wilson has yet to drop the shoe on Jauron), the Browns head to Steeltown this Sunday to face the World Champs.
Pittsburgh no longer seems invincible. They lost to the Bengals; almost blew a huge lead against the Chargers; barely beat the winless Titans; lost to the Bears; and squeaked by the 1-4 Lions. They sit at 3-2, behind the first place Bengals and tied with the Ravens for second in the AFC North.
Getting a little long in the tooth has some advantages, like feeling immersed in a long-standing rivalry. You would be hard pressed to find a better rivalry in professional football than the Browns-Steelers. It has been grossly lopsided for years (11 straight wins for Pittsburgh going back to November 2003), but overall it has been very even (the Steelers lead overall 59-55, including postseason). The proximity of the two cities has been just one factor that has fueled the rivalry for decades.
I will never forget when the Browns were about to relocate to Baltimore under the auspices of good ole Art. I hated the Steelers. Still do. But I was so impressed with the fact that Pittsburgh and the Rooney family stood with the City of Cleveland in opposing the move. I remember several demonstrations by die-hard Steeler fans in Pittsburgh protesting the move of the Browns from Cleveland.
Well…enough with the nostalgia. So far this season, the two major strengths of Pittsburgh have been passing (4th in the NFL in total passing yards) and defending the run (2nd in the League in fewest rush yards allowed). Believe it or not, despite the abysmal performance by the Browns last Sunday and our record of 1-4, we stand a chance at competing with the Steelers’ major threats. In fact, Cleveland sits average or better than average in the NFL in both rushing (we are 16th in the NFL at 531 total yards averaging 3.8 per carry on the ground) and in defending the pass (we are 10th overall).
The advent of Fraley on the right side of the offensive line and the tandem of Lewis and Harrison have given life to our running game. We need to control the clock against Pittsburgh if we have any chance of even keeping this contest close. The more boring the game, the better from our perspective. We cannot compete otherwise since Anderson’s accuracy is as good as a blind biathlete and Braylon’s iron hands seem to have spread around the receivers (thanks, Braylon, for rubbing it in against the Dolphins Monday night).
It is a real shame that our passing offense is so pitiful. Shameful because we have some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of marked improvement in our running game and our pass protection. Shameful because we have guys like Rogers and Cribbs who are among the best players in the League at any position. I have no clue what to suggest for the passing woes. We have tried nearly every tool in the chest. Our best success seems to have come from Massaquoi along the sidelines and Heiden and Royal underneath – we might as well try to exploit that. Throw a few passes to the guys out of the backfield – surely Derek can hit Jamal, Jerome or Lawrence from a few steps away. And it is time to start Robo.
The complainant in the Big Ben sex assault scandal will accept bribes for distraction purposes this Sunday. Maybe we can pool our resources together.
Go Brownies! Cheers,