The (10-5) Pittsburgh Steelers will close out the 2016 regular season at home against the (1-14) Cleveland Browns in a game that figures to feature quite a few backups for both teams on both sides of the football. Below are seven things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in order to come away with their 11th win of the season against a Browns team that could lose the first overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft with a win.
Strong performances from the Joneses – Landry Jones will make his fourth career start Sunday against the Browns and it needs to start off the same way as it did last season when he started against Cleveland sans the ankle injury.Jones was 3-of-4 on the opening drive of that game and looked very comfortable. While he won’t have wide receiver Antonio Brown or running back Le’Veon Bell in this game, he will have several other players that he’s likely worked with in practice all season in addition to several starting offensive linemen for the early portion of the game. As for the other Jones, linebacker Jarvis Jones, he should really be revved up to play this week after being a healthy scratch last week. Unfortunately, for him, he will likely see a lot of Browns tackle Joe Thomas on Sunday. While we dont expect Jarvis to have a big day rushing the passes, he should be able to play the run effectively throughout the game.
Contain RGIII – Despite suffering a concussion last Sunday, quarterback Robert Griffin III will start against the Steelers to close out the Browns 2016 season. The Steelers defense mist do a great job of establishing rush lane integrity in addition to not letting the mobile quarterback get outside of the pocket. Griffin will be used some in misdirection rollouts on Sunday in an effort to get him some easy throws. When he does roll out, the Steelers defense needs to force a quick throw and prevent him from using his legs to create an explosive play.
Be aware of the unexpected – Let’s face it, the Browns will likely run a trick play or three against the Steelers and thus the Pittsburgh will need to be aware of that throughout the game. Even fake punts and onside kicks are possible at any point during the game. Coordinators Keith Butler and Danny Smith need top drill home before kickoff that the unexpected should be expected.
Figure out those head bobs – B.J. Finney will make his first career start at center against the Browns and while he did play at the position back in Week 9, it dont go overall well for the former undrafted free agent out of Kansas State and especially when it came to his head bob timing. Finney’s timing being off in that game hopefully won’t be an issue Sunday against the Browns as it can create needless penalties as well as sacks.
Yards after Crowell – Browns running back Isaiah Crowell is a well-rounded player as not only does he appear to be better when it comes to getting yards after first contact, his yards after the catch this season have been impressive as well. The Steelers defense has had their share of problems this season when it comes to backs out of the backfield and they’ll be tested by Crowell in that area on Sunday. The Browns would be wise to make Crowell a big part of their game-plan and stick with him as long as the contest is close.
Tackle, tackle, tackle, tackle, tackle – The Steelers defense likes to miss tackles and while naming this as one of the seven keys is like shooting fish in a barrel, this is the perfect week to get the needle moving back in the other directions and enter the playoffs with the arrow pointing up.
Stay healthy, my friends – While not really a key related to actually winning the game, it is a big key when it comes to the playoffs. Thanks to rosters only including 53 players, several starters will have to see some time against the Browns. Hopefully the team can avoid injuries this week and enter the playoffs the healthiest they’ve been since the bye week.