Isn’t it great to have a season finale that doesn’t mean all that much? Granted, I have probably ragged more than anyone over the course of the past few days about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ evident decision to rest a number of their key starters while the unlikely possibility of securing the top seed remains in play.
But the bottom line is that the absolute worst scenario they can possibly face is playing their first postseason game at home in Heinz Field during the Divisional Round, perhaps hosting a team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, or Baltimore Ravens.
It is somewhat of a respite to be able to watch a game that has marginal stakes at best. Sure, it may be less exciting, but it’s also a lot less stressful. Consider it a bye week for your arteries, yet you still get to enjoy—or at least watch—Steelers football.
Pittsburgh is concluding its regular season this afternoon at home, playing host to the Cleveland Browns. They opened the season in Cleveland and only won by three points. But while the Steelers have been on a pretty consistent upward trajectory since then, the Browns have, at best, remained stagnant.
The only two meaningful developments on the Browns’ end since that opener pertain to the integration of personnel. Their first-overall draft pick, Myles Garrett, missed the season opener, but he has had a very productive rookie season. It should be fun to get a look at him.
We will also get a chance to see Josh Gordon, which frankly is not something that I ever expected as recently as a couple of months ago. The troubled wide receiver has burned through a number of chances over the course of his career and is hoping to make this one stick.
The Browns have not won a game all season, but nobody has rested starters to play them, either. Still, the Steelers are also the best team they have seen. And backups beat them last year without them seeing many meaningful upgrades in the interim.
The relative insignificance of this game, including the number of starters resting, means to me that there will not be a lot of interest to watch for regarding more big-picture things, so I want to focus more on personnel.
I’ve talked about this a couple of times, but a great game from Sean Spence would be a blessing to see. Landry Jones playing well would also be of comfort. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant should see to it that this game is more competitive than last season’s finale.
Defensively, T.J. Watt won’t have to deal with Joe Thomas this time around. Edge pressure from him and Bud Dupree is what I want to see heading into the playoffs. And Sean Davis in particular is a player that I want to see have a much more consistent performance than we have gotten in recent weeks.