The Pittsburgh Steelers will wrap up the regular season at home Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and while many of their starters may not suit up to play, this contest is still one of high importance. A Steelers victory accompanied by a New England Patriots loss would move the Steelers back into the number one seed in the AFC. Here are the numbers that are shaping Sunday’s season finale.
Should Cameron Heyward notch two more sacks against the Browns Sunday, he will finish with 14 sacks on the season, giving him the third most sacks in a season in Steelers history. Heyward would tie Kevin Greene and Keith Willis should he reach 14 sacks. The Browns give Heyward a golden ticket for racking up his sack total as they have allowed 44 sacks this season. Heyward and the Steelers have also had success against the Browns offensive line as they tallied seven sacks in the season opener in Cleveland. Heyward, however, might be held out on Sunday.
The Browns are currently averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season, tied for fourth best in the NFL. This is a major cause for concern for a Steelers run defense that has allowed the flood gates to open in recent weeks. The Steelers have allowed over 130 rushing yards in three of their last four games, a trend that correlates with the absence of linebacker Ryan Shazier. Sunday’s matchup against the Browns will be the Steelers final chance to repair their damaged run defense before a playoff run.
It has been over 14 years since the Browns have defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Many Cleveland quarterbacks have come through the years but surprisingly the last one to win in Pittsburgh was notorious draft bust Tim Couch in 2003. DeShone Kizer is up for double the task Sunday as not only will he look to be the first quarterback since Couch to win in Pittsburgh but he will also try to steer the Browns clear of an 0-16 season. A loss Sunday would put the Browns at the imperfect 0-16 and would result in coach Hue Jackson taking a dive into Lake Erie and possibly out of town.
The common belief out of Pittsburgh is that Landry Jones will start the season finale just as he did last season against the Browns. Jones was fairly impressive in last season’s finale, throwing for 277 yards, three touchdowns and finishing with a 103.1 passer rating. The Steelers are going to need a similar performance as they look to close the season out with a victory as should the Patriots lose, the Steelers would regain home field advantage in the AFC.
Just like Ben Roethlisberger, it is presumed that Le’Veon Bell will also sit out the season finale, giving way to the likes of Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint. While Ridley figures to get a volume of touches, the running back has not produced in a work horse back role since his days as a Patriot. In fact, to find the last time Ridley went over 100 yards rushing in game you have to venture all the way back to October 10th 2014 when he rushed for 113 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. Just like back up mate Landry Jones, Ridley will look to shine in his first opportunity at being a major contributor this season.