Stillers - Browns Pregame
At home, in search of a winning record, the Stillers face off against the Cleveland Clowns this week. Rather than facing a hot Cleveland team in their territory (as happened earlier this year), Pittsburgh faces a struggling adversary who's playing on the road. Hopefully last week's win will put a little confidence back in the home crowd despite the sloppy effort (especially offensively). Two wins in a row at home - with number two against the Clowns - might just go a long way towards regaining home field advantage at Three Rivers.
I felt confident that our beloved Black 'n Gold would succeed this week, but that seems even more eminent with the Browns losing Tim Cooch to injury during Thursday's practice. The other factor leading me to believe the Stillers will win is their understanding that they cannot take anything for granted. The leadership has been strong in the locker room and the entire team still carries the bad taste of losing in their mouths.
Let's breakdown the matchup:
Cleveland's offense, that put up huge numbers against Pittsburgh earlier, is now struggling. They're putting up about 280 yards/game, 3.5 yards/rush and 6.5 yards/offensive attempt which puts them 24th overall in the NFL (a solid 14th passing though). Pittsburgh is amassing 311 yards/game, 4.3 yards/rush and 5.9 yards/attempt which sticks them in the middle of the pack - 16th overall in the NFL (but only 27th passing). A team that is accumulating over 30 fewer yards per game than the Stillers is definitely in bad shape...and without their starting QB, they're in worse shape. Despite last week's struggles, Pittsburgh owns a decisive advantage.
Cleveland's defense is struggling to stop opposing offenses. They're giving up nearly 360 yards/game, 4.4 yards/rush and 6.5 yards/offensive attempt - like their offense they're 24th overall in the NFL. Pittsburgh on the other hand is giving up 288 yards/game, 3.6 yards/rush and 5.9 yards/offensive attempt which places them 10th overall (7th against the rush/13th against the pass). The clear advantage goes to Pittsburgh.
Note: If the "when it rains it pours" theory holds true for sacks, watch Joey Porter - he's on a two week tear!
Cleveland's lone shining star at this point in the season is their special teams. Their strength is kick returns where they have three return men (D. Patten, J. White and L. Jackson) all averaging better than 20 yards/return with 34 total attempts between them. Pittsburgh, though, also has three men averaging greater than 20 yards/return (Edwards, Poteat and Ward) but they have only 19 attempts between them since the defense has been shutting down opposing offenses. There doesn't seem to be a clear advantage on special teams but that shouldn't matter anyway - if Cleveland's special teams cause them beat Pittsburgh there are much larger issues at large.
I'm looking for Pittsburgh to play better offensively despite losing Walt Witman to injury, the defense will harass the opposing QB Puderson repeatedly and the result will be the fourth win in a row. Pittsburgh 23-10.