The Steelers finally return to real action after a long off-season of excitement, speculation, hope, concern, surprise and waiting. Will the Steelers finally reach the top step of the "stairway to seven"? It all starts with the Cleveland Browns. Join BTSC as we take a closer look at this week's opponent.
Note: *denotes projected starter
*No. 7 QB DeShone Kiser
While some felt Cleveland would go with Mitch Trubisky, the Browns bypassed the "it quarterback" of the 2017 draft and nabbed a pass-rushing phenom in the form of Myles Garrett with their first overall pick. Finally, with their fourth selection, Hue Jackson's team added a passer by selecting Notre Dame's DeShone Kiser. At 6'4"/233 lbs., the strong-armed Kiser has great mobility to boot. But No. 7 struggled during the second half of 2016 as the Irish went 4-8. His accuracy and decision-making skills have been questioned by scouts, but a solid preseason (25/49, 351 yards and a TD) earned Kiser the starting job in Cleveland. The Steelers typically do well against rookie quarterbacks, so it’ll be interesting to see how ready Kiser might be.
Other Browns Quarterbacks to Note:
No. 6 Cody Kessler, No. 8 Kevin Hogan
*No. 34 RB Isaiah Crowell
The Browns have some talent at the RB position in the form of Crowell and Duke Johnson. Crowell is a dual-threat for the Browns. In 2016, the Alabama State product ran for seven scores and 952 yards on the season, averaging 4.8 YPC. Crowell also caught 40 balls for 319 yards. The physical 5’11”/225 pounder had two scores in the team's lone win in Week 16 against San Diego and is capable of breaking off a big one, as evidenced by his 85-yarder earlier in the season against Baltimore. Against Pittsburgh in the finale, No. 34 gained 152 yards with 8.0 YPC, after gaining only 10 yards in the previous contest against the Black-and-gold.
Other Browns Running Backs to Note:
No. 29 Duke Johnson Jr., No. 27 Matt Dayes, *No. 40 FB Dan Vitale
*No. 19 WR Corey Coleman
With Terrelle Pryor in Washington, the second-year phenom from Baylor is settling in to the WR-1 position and developing a good rapport with Kiser. With a consistent passer throwing his way and his continuing to get good separation with 4.33 speed, Coleman could light it up in 2017. In 10 games last year, the 5'11" speedster made 33 catches for 413 yards and a score.
Other Browns Wide Receivers to Note:
*No. 19 Kenny Britt, No. 10 Sammie Coates, No. 80 Ricardo Louis, Reggie Davis, Kasen Williams
*No. 86 TE Randal Telfer
With Gary Barnidge no longer wearing brown and orange, Randal Telfer will start over first rounder David Njoku at TE-1. Telfer is considered to be the best blocker among the tight ends and is a crucial cog in the Cleveland rushing attack. He finished 14 games with Cleveland in 2016 and caught two balls for four yards.
Other Browns Tight Ends to Note:
No. 87 Seth DeValve, No. 85 David Njoku
*No. 73 LT Joe Thomas
Dominant in run-blocking and pass protection, Joe Thomas ranks among the franchise’s and league's best at LT. Starting his 11th season, the grizzled vet has been named to 10 straight Pro Bowls and was Cleveland’s 2016 player of the year. The Steelers rookie, T.J Watt, will face a tough task when he gets his first taste of regular-season action against the seven-time All Pro who never has missed a regular season game.
Other Browns Offensive Linemen to Note:
*No. 75 LG Joel Bitonio, *No. 64 C JC Tretter, *No. 70 RG Kevin Zeitler, *No. 72 RT Shon Coleman, LT Zach Banner, LG Marcus Martin, C Austin Reiter, RG Spencer Drango, RT Zach Sterup
*No. 90 DE Emmanuel Ogbah
This space was set up to highlight Myles Garrett's debut and his vow to terrorize Ben Roethlisberger. But the NFL's first-overall pick sustained a high ankle sprain and will be out possibly four to six weeks. Carl Nassib may be the front runner to start in his stead, Ogbah is a second-year man who had 53 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a rookie. The Oklahoma Stater is a big and powerful run stopper who has improved as a pass rusher.
Other Browns Defensive Linemen to Note:
*No. 93 DT Trevon Coley, *No. 98 DT Jamie Meder, No. 44 DE Nate Orchard, No. 99 Caleb Brantley, No. 65 Larry Ogunjobi, No. 94 Carl Nassib, No. 97 T.Y. McGill
*No. 51 SLB Jamie Collins Sr.
After being acquired via trade from the New England Patriots at mid-season, the 2015 Pro Bowl selection and Second-Team All Pro appeared in all eight games for the Browns. In that half of a season, Collins tackled opponents 69 times (seven for a loss), including 15 in a December game against Cincinnati. One of the brightest spots of 2016 for Cleveland was acquiring Jamie Collins for a compensatory third-round pick from New England on Halloween. Collins is a fast-attacking player and a throwback at linebacker who’s a hitter all over the field. His huge payday to stay by the lake was a huge splash for the Browns.
Other Browns Linebackers to Note:
*No. 53 WLB Joe Schobert, *No. 58 MLB Christian Kirksey, No. 52 SLB James Burgess Jr., No. 54 Dominique Alexander
*No. 21 CB Jamar Taylor
Taylor came over from Miami and was quickly named a captain. Besides assuming the role of a leader for the youngest lineup in the NFL, Taylor picked off three passes and had 13 passes defended.
Other Browns Defensive Backs to Note:
*No. 35 CB Jason McCourty, *No. 22 S Jabrill Peppers, *No. 30 S Derrick Kindred, No. 41 CB Mike Jordan, No. 20 CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, No. 24 S Ibraheim Campbell, No. 25 S Calvin Pryor III
*No. 22 PR/KR Jabril Peppers
Peppers is a dynamic player with Swiss Army knife capabilities. Peppers will start at safety, as well as handle return duties. He averaged 9.8 YPR on punts. The Steelers need to be aware of Peppers at all times on Sunday.
Other Browns Special Teamers to Note:
*P/H No. 4 Britton Colquitt, *K No. 5 Zane Gonzalez, KR No. 10 Sammie Coates, No. 11 Reggie Davis, *No. 47 LS Charley Hughlett
No. 55 DT Danny Shelton, No. 95 DE Myles Garrett