The 5-4 Pittsburgh Steelers will host the 2-7 Cleveland Browns Sunday at Heinz Field in what looks like might feature a quarterback battle between Landry Jones and Johnny Manziel. While there certainly will be several great matchups to pay attention to on Sunday, below are three that I have identified as possibly being real key in the Steelers getting a win. Strangely enough, they include a few Camerons and a few Bryants.
Feel free to add your own key matchups in the comments below.
Heyward vs. Erving – Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward probably can’t wait to introduce himself to another Cam on Sunday at Heinz Field. With Browns starting left guard Joel Bitonio out for the game against the Steelers with an ankle injury, rookie Cameron Erving will be forced to make his first career start. While the Florida State product will be sandwiched in between two great offensive linemen in left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack, there will be several times during Sunday’s game where he’ll be forced to handle Heyward one-on-one. Because of this, Heyward is expected to have a solid game Sunday as he should be able to harass whichever Browns quarterback winds up playing. Expect Erving to be tested with a few twists and stunts early on.
Bryant vs. Desir – During his Friday session with the media, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said cornerback Pierre Desir will likely start Sunday opposite Tramon Williams and in place of Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, who has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a concussion. That means that Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant should be matched up against Desir quite a bit on Sunday. Bryant, who has scored four touchdowns in the four games he has played in so far this season, has only caught 10 passes for 125 yards in the Steelers last three games. While the Browns secondary has been great so far this season when it comes to defending the deep pass, Bryant should be able to exploit Desir and possibly even Justin Gilbert, for a few deep catches on Sunday.
Villanueva vs. Bryant – Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will make his fourth-straight on Sunday and this week he’ll be matched up quite a bit against Browns outside linebacker Armonty Bryant. While Bryant does lead the Browns in sacks so far this season with 3.5, it’s worth noting that 2.5 of those came against the Tennessee Titans back in Week 2. With quarterback Landry Jones likely to make his second career start Sunday against the Browns, Villanueva needs to protect him better than he did back in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns, by the way, have allowed an average of 5.52 yards per carry on runs to their right side so far this season, so Villanueva can certainly help make a difference this Sunday in the Steelers running game on runs to their left.