How many times can you believe the hype without expectations being met? That’s the story of the Cleveland Browns since they returned to the NFL. Take the 2019 season. They were the betting favorites to win the AFC North last year. Then they posted an even worse record than the year before.
Now they are once again a popular team. With the Baltimore Ravens bullying their way to a 14-2 record, nobody is really picking them to win the division, but there is discussion about them vying for the number two position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pro Football Focus recently weighed in on this during a podcast last week.
George Chahouri played the skeptical view on the Steelers, essentially questioning how much of a difference Ben Roethlisberger is going to make. “When you look at Big Ben, he led the league in passing yards in 2018, and everybody says, well that’s a good thing, but they don’t say the same thing about Jameis Winston”, he said.
“Big Ben graded like crap in 2018”, he continued. “Then they lost Antonio Brown. And I know that they got Diontae Johnson and James Washington to emerge a little bit last year, but he comes in here, and he played like crap early on last year, got hurt. Now he comes back, what is he gonna be like? What is he gonna do?”.
I don’t really know why he chose to say something as ridiculous as Roethlisberger grading ‘like crap’ in 2018. Their own site gave him a 78.2 overall grade, which is far from crap. As for his very limited play in 2019, you wouldn’t expect somebody who’s about to require elbow surgery to look all too great.
His podcast partner, Eric Eager, was more skeptical of the Browns on the other hand, noting for example that, while Baker Mayfield was great under pressure last season, that is an unstable metric, and the much more stable metric of play from a clean pocket was below average, ranking 22nd “There should be a decent amount of pause” about him, he said.
He also talked about the Steelers’ skill position players and what they might be able to do with Roethlisberger. “That has the makings of a pretty darn good offense, where all of a sudden, you look at the Browns and you go, ‘yeah, I know they have more talent, but am I really sure they’re gonna put it all together?’”, he asked. “At least I’ve seen Big Ben do it before. I’ve seen JuJu Smith-Schuster do it before. I’ve seen the Steelers do it before. I have not seen the Browns do it before. Ever”.
In 2018, the Steelers finished 9-6-1, while the Browns finished 7-8-1. Last year, the Steelers finished 8-8, without a quarterback, and the Browns, presumably having made significant upgrades, slid back to a record of 6-10. Everyone should know by now that it’s buyer beware in Cleveland. At least wait to see them do it once first before you hitch your wagon.