Going Deep: A Look at Steelers and Browns Week 1 Matchup
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
Hello everyone, my name is Sam and I’m a die hard Browns fan. That being said, I’m going to try to put on my neutral hat to break down the Steelers along with the Browns. I hope this gives you a better understanding of these two teams to help you make decisions about who to draft for the 2018 season. I will start with the Steelers to get them out of the way, and then rinse well with the Browns to remove the dirty taste!
The Steelers offense has done very well for many years. Offensively, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown alone have been capable of tearing up opposing defenses and leading the Steelers to wins while QB Ben Roethlisberger has been an outstanding quarterback both in fantasy and real life. This season, the Steelers thankfully have not had any players with suspension issues, though Bell has still not appeared in camp due to a contract hold out. It might not be disastrous if Bell’s hold-out continues through the preseason, but there is an increased potential for injury for not being in football shape and that should factor in to your assessment of Bell going into your redrafts (at the time of this writing, I would take Bell 3rd overall, but not over Gurley or David Johnson, for example). Bell has missed time to injuries before. In my mind, the Bell hold-out is the most important current issue for the Steelers. They have a solid defense and a really good offense (stellar offense with Bell).
In my view, Big Ben is showing signs of decline as a quarterback, but his decline (if you believe in it like I do) can be measured in small bumps, not leaps or bounds. I simply do not like what I see from him as far as the eye test goes. Additionally, Roethlisberger’s health is also a minor concern as he did miss time to injuries in both 2015 and 2016. That being said, the Steelers have a high powered offense, which means they run a lot of plays, gain a lot of yards, and score a lot of touchdowns, and Roethlisberger’s decline will not have a hugely negative impact on that given the number of weapons they have. Also, backup QB’s Landry Jones and rookie Mason Rudolph performed very well in the preseason opener for the Steelers, so even if Ben does go down, the Steelers should remain competitive at QB. In fact, all the Steelers running backs also showed well in preseason, though of course none match Le’Veon Bell. That is due in part to the Steelers having the #4 ranked O-line per Pro Football Focus.
While the Steelers did lose OT Chris Hubbard (to my Browns), over the offseason, he was just a backup to starter OT Marcus Gilbert. So basically, the O-line remains unchanged from 2017 which means it will once again be very good. This is great news, not just for any running back, but for all the wide receivers as Roethlisberger should have a decent amount of time for plays to develop. Brown is the best WR in the game today, but WR JuJu Smith-Schuster played incredibly well last season as well and has looked just as good so far this year. And while the Steelers have traded away WR Martavis Bryant to the Raiders, they have high hopes for rookie WR James Washington who was teammates with Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State. Washington would be a great add for anyone in a very deep league. TE’s Jesse James and Vance McDonald don’t excite me all that much, but they will each have some big plays throughout the season. For fantasy purposes, I think they’ll hurt each others’ value unless one of them goes out due to injury.
Defensively, the Steelers suffered a huge loss with an injury to LB Ryan Shazier. He was an outstanding linebacker and the Steelers can only hope that LB Jon Bostic can help fill that gap. The Steelers also lost LB Arthur Moates to the Cardinals, but that may not be a very big loss as Moates’ play seemed to be on the decline over the last couple years anyway- his contract to AZ is only for one year. 2018 also saw the loss of CB William Gay who was a long-time staple of the Steelers’ defense but whose play sharply declined in 2017 (and who has since suffered a hamstring injury playing for the Giants in the preseason) and FS Mike Mitchell. Mitchell is currently in free agency, but the Steelers may not ask him back as they drafted rookie S Terrell Edmunds with their first round pick and have not made moves to reacquire Mitchell. Defensively, the Steelers are set to perform very well this season, as they did last season. The biggest knock against the Steelers is really just that they’re going to lose at least two games this year when they play the Browns in weeks 1 & 7 while the Browns power their way to a perfect season and a Superbowl!
For anyone reading this, book it now- the Browns will win the Superbowl this year. As good as anyone else is, the Browns have finally done just about everything right in the off-season and are now primed to win. After a mess of a 2017 season where they went 0-16, there has been talk that Head Coach Hue Jackson was purposely tanking the season to give the Browns a great draft position. That may or may not be true, but the “loss” of QB DeShone Kizer to Green Bay can’t be felt. QB Tyrod Taylor was acquired from Buffalo over the offseason and played perfectly in the preseason opener. There has been a lot of talk about a great connection between him and WR Jarvis Landry, and that certainly looked to be the case during preseason against the Giants when Taylor hit Landry in a tight window over Giants’ CB Janoris Jenkins. Additionally, everyone that matters seems to think that QB Baker Mayfield played very well, throwing two touchdowns in the opener. That certainly seems to justify their use of the 1st overall pick of the 2018 draft on Mayfield. So even if Taylor were to be injured, the Browns seem to have a great QB to rely on. And besides, look at that smile! /swoon
Also in the offseason, the Browns brought in OT Chris Hubbard, who may or may not still have “it”, as well as RB Carlos Hyde, Jarvis Landry, QB Drew Stanton (perennial backup who hopefully will not have to play this year), WR Jeff Janis, a couple CB’s EJ Gaines, Terrance Mitchell, and TJ Carrie. The Browns’ secondary was their biggest weak point defensively and should be much better this year. In addition to drafting Mayfield, the Browns also picked up RB Nick Chubb, CB Denzel Ward, and DE Chad Thomas, and WR Antonio Callaway.
The Browns shed Kizer, and RB Isaiah Crowell, neither of whom seemed to find favor with Hue Jackson while shedding DE Danny Shelton and CB Jason McCourty, both to the Patriots. These losses are probably insignificant, though with how poorly the Browns showed last season, it’s probably not surprising how much turnover they experienced. One player that I’m very glad is still with the team is best-in-all-of-history WR Josh Gordon, who actually has yet to show up and play with the team. While it is concerning that there doesn’t seem to be a time-table for Gordon to come back to Cleveland, the team has been very supportive of Gordon staying in Florida for extended addiction counseling and training. If you don’t know, Gordon lit up the NFL in 2013 as a sophomore leading all WR’s in yardage. He might literally be the best WR in the league, but it’s hard to know since he has been suspended so many times due to substance use violations.
If Gordon (nicknamed Flash) does come back and play again, he will have a good quarterback for the first time in his NFL career and the potential for big plays will always be there, opening up every other facet of the Browns’ offense and almost assuredly leading to a Super Bowl win. In the meanwhile, WR Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway played very well in the preseason opener and provide great hope that the absence of Gordon as well as the loss of WR Corey Coleman will have a minimal impact. Coleman was traded for the equivalent of a mediocre ham and cheese sandwich (not even toasted) to the Bills for apparently being lazy and generally not very good at route running. He had many drops throughout the 2017 season as well has a fairly lengthy injury history for how short of a time he’s been in the league.
The Browns O-line did not appear to play very well in the preseason opener, but there is time for them to get better, and having a running QB like Tyrod Taylor should help. They are ranked pretty middle of the road as a unit, and that ranking looked justified against the Giants. Carlos Hyde did not look that great in preseason, but preseason games are of dubious value for anything more than getting a very rough idea of how well a team plays together. If Hyde does not perform in the regular season, rookie Nick Chubb may start to split time with Hyde and RB Duke Johnson, Jr. is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. There are rumors that The Duke may play split out wide frequently this season, so there is a ton of value for snagging him in PPR leagues.
Defensively, the Browns should perform well. They are currently ranked as the #12 defense against the run, but they are a young defense and should be better this year than they were last. Additionally, with all the upgrades to the secondary, games should naturally be kept much closer than they were last season, giving the Browns the edge in quite a few games. That being said, they have a very tough division playing alongside the Steelers and the Bengals. All homerisms aside, I really think the Browns have a great shot this season of making it at least to the Wild Card matchup. Do NOT sleep on the Browns this year!