Steelers vs. Browns Week 12 preview

Forget all the atrocities -- the Steelers are in the playoff hunt.

The defense wasn't exceptional against the Lions, but that game was still a lot of fun to watch. The offensive outburst was aided by a pretty pedestrian Lions secondary and the game might've been a lot uglier in Detroit. But the offensive line was pretty impressive against a nasty interior D-line, and who cares?!? They're vying for a playoff spot!

A win against Cleveland would keep the Steelers on the edge of the Wild Card race. A loss at this point might be enough to sink their hopes for good.

It's not exactly a metaphorical playoff game yet, but Pittsburgh's season now begins and ends with the Browns.

4-6 vs. 4-6

The Browns defense has been really encouraging for Cleveland's fans at times this season. The Packers, Lions, and Bengals scored enough points on them to bump their points against ranking to 17th in league, but they are still 5th in yards allowed -- and that's a pretty popular measure of success in certain circles. Jason Campbell has filled in without catastrophe (80.0 quarterback rating), and that Trent Richardson trade looks pretty slick right now. But they still have the worst point differential in the division. Their offense, simply put, is one of the worst in the league.

The Steelers started the season in a putrescent funk, going 0-4 and reaching all kinds of new lows. Then, they dug deep and found something in the grooves of rock bottom. Despite the disappointing losses to Oakland and that other team that I don't recall at the moment, Pitt is 4-2 in their last 6. So everybody in the media can just f***in' cool it with all the comments about how terrible they've been since that playoff game against the Broncos. It was a bad stretch, but they are still the Pittsburgh Steelers -- one the greatest franchises the NFL has ever seen.

ONE GAME OUT

It seems like a joke, but Pittsburgh is only one game back in the AFC Wild Card race. The first Wild Card is going to the AFC West runner-up, but the 6-seed is up for grabs -- with mostly pretty awful teams getting handsy. Good news for the Steelers! Only one game back from the Jets and Dolphins -- plus, they could have the head-to-head tiebreakers over both of those teams by the end of the year. And hey, remember the last time they got in as a #6? Went pretty well.

They don't look much like the team from 2005, but if the league's unleashed parity affords them an opportunity to channel the team that won Super Bowl XL, why not? It still seems pretty unlikely, and it's really too bad the 2013ers lost to Minnesota, Oakland and Tennessee, but the unlikely could very well happen. The Steelers are a playoff contender.

Here's that last sentence again since you didn't believe it the first time:

The Steelers are a playoff contender.

Man, I wish the NFL was just a little more fabulous...oh hey, thanks Browns

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Both

Last week, I asked the question: "Which team will show up against Detroit?" or something like that. The answer ended up being: "Both" -- or more specifically, "The shitty team showed up for a large chunk of the first half, but for the first few minutes and the whole second half, a completely new team, an offensive powerhouse that slashed the Lions to motherf***ing ribbons, came out of nowhere and restored a sense of hope to the 2013 season, the general direction of the Steelers organization, and the entire human category of living things."

It took them almost the full 60 minutes for them to come up with this answer, but they did. And it was pretty satisfying. But for next week, how about a quick and prevailing answer to that question: "The good version."

Cotch-piece update

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Still awesome.

ICYMI

You seriously need to watch this video. Unless you're a hardcore Nihilist, this will at least make you consider smiling.

c/o BTSC's own Chris Carter

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Steelers.com has been putting up some great slideshows of classic match ups. So far it looks like it's only been Buffalo and Cleveland. While it would've been cool to see some old photos of Steelers-Bears or Steelers-Vikings, the two they have are pretty ba'ass.

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There is a really cool anecdotal interview with Dick Lebeau by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In it, he gives an account of what it was like to play a professional football game just 48 hours after the JFK assassination. Just another reason Dick Lebeau and his remarkably untiring seniority are awesome.

The interview is also kind of illuminating. It's another example of how the current generation (myself included) and Lebeau's generation have the exact opposite disposition toward the powers that be. When he said, "I've always been a person who supports the existing authorities," I thought I might've somehow stumbled upon an interview with Stephen Colbert by accident. The popular modern attitude toward authority is so guarded and suspicious. And rightfully so. Let's not kid ourselves by saying he grew up in an era that had better leaders. JFK was pretty much a better-looking and more promiscuously successful Bill Clinton. But a large part of Lebeau's generation simply had a much more benevolent opinion of the establishment.

I don't know. Maybe not. It just seems like the Terrell Suggs-Roger Goodell Saga would look a lot different back in Lebeau's heyday.

What is a 70-yard punt?

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Apparently, it's when a punter just kicks it really far...Mat McBriar joined a pretty elite club (at least for the Steelers) on Sunday with a punt of exactly 70 yards after the first drive of the third quarter. It was a huge play, improving the Steelers chances of winning by 6.1% (for comparison's sake, Roethlisberger's first TD pass to Brown improved their chances by 8.6% -- so yea, big punt).

Only 13 guys in recorded Steelers history have kicked a ball that far, cherry-bomb style. Drew Butler had a 79-yarder (second longest in team history) last year, and Josh Miller booted a 72-yard punt back in 2003 (and a few other times at the end of the 90s). But other than those two guys, you'd have to go back to 1981 to find a 70+ yard professional Pittsburgh punt. That one was kicked by none other than the patriarch of the Colquitt family punting dynasty, Craig Colquitt. His sons, Dustin and Britton, and his brother, Jimmy, have all drop kicked stuff at the highest level at which one can do so.

Aaaaaaaand here's a picture of those sons:

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Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL

Okay, maybe he's not. But he leads the league in receptions and is 5th in receiving yards. A lot of that has come from the kind of offense Pittsburgh has been forced to run while trailing early in games, but Brown has handsomely rewarded the Steelers for extending him in an era that sees many players regress (for whatever reason) after earning their first big contract. He's probably a more complete wideout than the team's last "number one" and he is just as electrifying. When Mike Wallace returns to Pittsburgh at the beginning of December, we could be in for a gashing Young Money showdown. Ike Taylor can cover receivers better than most corners in the NFL, but if Wallace gets loose behind him, a big play or two could set the stage for another big game from Brown as well -- but let's hope they don't have to throw 50 times to make it happen.

This week, he's got a much tougher matchup -- Cleveland's Joe Haden, who had two picks last week (one returned for a TD) and held AJ Green to just 2 catches for 7 yards. Not unimpressive. But the Browns still lost by 21, mainly because they were outscored 31-0 in the second quarter.

First Green. Now Brown. And hey, he gets to face BLACKmon the following against Jacksonville. Things are getting less and less colorful by the week for Joe Haden.

Matthew Stafford: Exemplary Caucasian

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Just not that good

That's a phrase that could describe about 90% of the NFL. Or at least it seems that way. There are the unquestionable plankton, like Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. There are a handful of pretty good teams, like Denver and Seattle. But between those edges of the NFL panorama, there's a lot of what looks like mediocrity. It's sure to take a more definitive shape soon, but someone is getting into the AFC bracket at 8-8 or 9-7. It was a good year for the Steelers to fall on their faces out of the starting blocks...I guess. If they can put together a good run over the next six weeks, they might just get in. And that's all it takes. Remember the team that won the Super Bowl last year?

PREDICTION

It seems like the Browns defense could give Pittsburgh some serious problems. Cleveland's secondary is pretty much the polar opposite of the Lions -- Brown isn't likely to have as many wide open lanes to the end zone after the catch. But the Steelers defense matches up well against the Browns. Well, most defenses do actually.

I'm hoping the defense doesn't let Jason Campbell, or whoever, get away with anything that will make me want to harm small animals. Ike needs to bottle up Josh Gordon to keep the Browns at bay, but even if he breaks one, I'm banking on Pittsburgh getting it done against a tough defense.

Steelers 14, Browns 12

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