Hritz: Steelers Versus Browns Preview & Prediction – Week 17

By Jeremy Hritz

Hritz 2012 Prediction Record: 8-7

RANKINGS Cleveland Pittsburgh
Offense 27th (313.9) 21st (340.8)
Rushing 25th (97) 26th (96.4)
Passing 20th (216.9) 11th (244.4)
PPG 23rd (19.5) 22nd (20.8)
Defense 24th (373.9) 1st (272.9)
Rushing 19th (120.5) 2nd (87.5)
Passing 27th (253.5) 1st (185.4)
PPG 19th (22.9) 10th (20.3)

It’s the end of the road for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers as they finish preparation for their final game of the season against the Cleveland Browns. While this game has no playoff implications and losing it could improve the Steelers first round pick position in the NFL Draft, Mike Tomlin and company do not want to drop another game at Heinz Field and finish with their first losing season since 2003. Additionally, while it is only one game, ending the season on a positive note could go a long in boosting the confidence of a few players who need to bust out of their slumps. The last thing that this team needs is for another poor outing from the offense and an interception-laden performance from Ben Roethlisberger. If Roethlisberger were to play another bad game, there will be questions aplenty heading into 2013 about his psyche.

The Browns are beat up heading into tomorrow’s final contest, and they will be playing without the likes of starting quarterback Brandon Weedon and starting running back Trent Richardson, both of whom will miss the game due to injury. With Weedon out, Duke product Thaddeus Lewis will be lining up under center, and with an already weak receiving corps, the Browns will struggle to move the ball through the air. Additionally, without the services of their starting running back, ground yardage will be difficult to come by as well. What does this mean? The Steelers will have a great chance to finish the season as the number one defense overall, something that can serve as a sort of consolation prize for the team being that it is out of the playoff race.

The offense will be worth watching tomorrow as it will be without the services of Mike Wallace, who has been placed on injured reserve. Tomorrow will serve as a mini-preview of what the offense could look like in 2013 without its speedster who more than likely will be playing for another team next year. It will also be interesting to monitor Rashard Mendenhall tomorrow to see whether or not he gets any carries. If he does, would that be an indication that the Steelers are considering resigning him next year? Or, if the team knows it is not interested in bringing him back, will it limit, or not give him any carries? Ultimately, if they feed Mendenhall tomorrow, they could be enabling an audition for other teams.

Also worth noting tomorrow will be the performances of David DeCastro to see if he can rebound from his struggles from last week, and of David Paulson, who will see extensive playing time in the absence of the injured Heath Miller.

Regretfully, tomorrow is the final day for Steelers fans to enjoy their team until next season. So while the game doesn’t count in any quest for the playoffs, it is the last game that counts for the Steelers until next September.

They won’t drop four in a row.

Steelers 22 Browns 6

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