The Pittsburgh Steelers look to kick off a winning streak today in the last of a three-game home stand, splitting the first two, but coming into the day off a victory. There are many things to watch for on both sides of the field in this one, starting pre-game with the inactives list.
While the Steelers are expected to be without Ben Roethlisberger after his suffered a foot injury that took him out of the last game, it won’t be official until 90 minutes before the game. He practiced on a limited basis on the last two days of the work week, but it was Landry Jones taking all of the meaningful reps.
For the Cleveland Browns, they are already scheduled to be without half of their starting secondary, with cornerback Joe Haden and safety Dante Whitner ruled out with concussions. But the other starting safety, Tashaun Gipson, has also been listed as questionable. Two other safeties are also questionable.
With such a beating in the secondary, the Steelers should be looking to take advantage, with or without Roethlisberger. While the Browns may give up the most yards on the ground in the league, their pass defense is not much better, ranking 22nd in the league heading into the game, and with the injuries to boot.
Antonio Brown is coming off a career game in which he caught 17 passes for 284 yards, and while we should not expect a repeat performance, there is certainly no reason to suggest that the All-Pro receiver should not be in line for another nice afternoon.
DeAngelo Williams is also coming off a career game, posting 29 touches and 225 total yards, 170 of which came on the ground. He nursed a bit of inflammation in his foot during the early portion of the week, but seems to be good to go.
Nonetheless, it would not be surprising to see backup Jordan Todman entrusted with a bit heavier workload than he has gotten up to this point. Williams was simply too hard to take off the field last week, but with every carry he has it becomes more and more important to monitor his workload.
One area in which the Steelers struggled heavily on defense last week was in generating a pass rush against a strong Raiders line. The Browns have an excellent offensive line, but they will be going ahead without left guard Joel Bitonio today—which is excellent news for Cameron Heyward.
The Steelers will be without James Harrison for the game, but already have a strong rotation at outside linebacker, and by and large are healthy throughout the rest of the defense, with respect to those who actually see playing time.
Tight end Matt Spaeth will still be out for a second straight game, which should give rookie Jesse James another opportunity to make the case for himself that he deserves to be active on a weekly basis. He had two receptions in his first game last week for 13 yards and a touchdown, and also blocked well.