The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very inconsistent team, and nothing showed this more than the team rebounding from losses to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders with a huge home win vs. the New England Patriots in Week 15. However, the inconsistencies continued with an absolutely heart-breaking defeat to the Saints in Week 16. Now, the Steelers don’t control their own destiny, but are relying on the help of the Browns — the Cleveland Browns.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best play maker, wide receiver Antonio Brown, might not be available to the team in Week 17 after discomfort in his knee has resulted in the team sending him to have it further evaluated.
Not good news when the Steelers need a win just to give them a shot at making the AFC Playoffs...
Let’s get to the news:
Antonio Brown misses Steelers practice again, gets tests on injured knee
By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
As the Pittsburgh Steelers head into their must-win regular-season finale, they will be doing so without the benefit of even one practice from their All-Pro receiver.
Antonio Brown was “sent for tests” Friday, coach Mike Tomlin said. The results could determine Brown’s status for Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tomlin said Brown “experienced some knee discomfort” during this past Sunday’s loss at New Orleans.
“I gave him a ‘vet day’ (off) on Wednesday like I give lot of ‘vet days’ to guys,” Tomlin said. “Got in here (Thursday) and didn’t feel comfortable enough to do it. We sent him for tests (Friday), and we will get the results of those tests and have more information.”
Typically, a Steelers player who does not practice during the week does not play, but Tomlin did not rule Brown out.
“Obviously, he’s a veteran player. If he gets better, there’s not a lot of physical repetitions needed to perform,” Tomlin said. “We will see all of that goes.”
Brown, 30, missed two regular-season games because of injury over the past six seasons. His 15 receiving touchdowns this season lead the NFL, and he ranks seventh with 104 receptions.
Most Steelers fans don’t mind rooting for Browns this Sunday
By: Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
It’s been said that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.”
The same can be said for the way sports can bring together people who otherwise have little in common: like Steelers and Browns fans.
With just a two hour drive separating the two cities, Pittsburgh and Cleveland have been arch rivals in football since they first met back in 1950, the year the Browns joined the NFL.
But now the Steelers need some help from the Browns. After losing at New Orleans last Sunday and falling out of first place in their division, Pittsburgh has virtually no chance of making the playoffs unless the Browns beat the AFC North leading Ravens and the Steelers defeat Cincinnati on Sunday in the final games of the regular season. So, like it or not, Steelers fans will have to root for the Browns. But many don’t seem to mind.
“America loves an underdog and Pittsburgh is no exception,” says Bill Maglieri, 56, of Carnegie as he sat at the bar of Mario’s on the South Side on Thursday watching college football. “As much as we’ve always been rivals, it’s good to see Cleveland doing better.”
To say that the Browns are doing better would massively understate Cleveland’s turnaround this year. After winning just one game in their previous two seasons and famously going 0-16 last year, the Browns are 7-7-1 behind rookie quarterback sensation Baker Mayfield. With a win at Baltimore on Sunday, the Browns would clinch their first winning season since 2007. That would be just fine with Patrick Malcolm, 22, of Scott .
“I hate the Browns, and I feel sorry for the Browns,” says Malcolm. “They’ve been so bad for so long. Hopefully, the Browns will beat Baltimore so the Steelers can go to the playoffs.”
The Steelers-Browns rivalry peaked during the 70s and 80s when it seemed the two battled annually for first place in the old AFC Central division. But since then, the intensity has fizzled with the Steelers having beaten their arch rivals to the northwest in 15 of the last 18 games dating back to the start of this decade.
Colin Sweeney, 28, of Mt. Lebanon says he’s not only rooting for the Browns this Sunday but also for them to return to being the kind of team that can consistently challenge the Steelers.
“I’m pulling for them to win this weekend of course,” says Sweeney. “But going forward, it’s a good thing for the Steelers to have the Browns make the division more competitive. Because the Steelers play up to their competition and play down to bad teams.”
Kevin Gorman: The Steelers’ MVP will be the one who shows up Sunday
By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers conducted their annual voting for the team’s Most Valuable Player, and it wasn’t so much who they selected that stirred controversy but rather who they snubbed.
The Steelers are no strangers to distractions, of course, but the last thing they needed this week is any signs of team discord. Their focus should be solely on beating the Bengals on Sunday at Heinz Field (and keeping their fingers crossed that the Browns beat the Ravens in Baltimore).
But the Steelers’ pick is telling.
That the MVP is JuJu Smith-Schuster and not Antonio Brown or Ben Roethlisberger is a reflection that the Steelers rewarded the player who provided both the biggest plays and the fewest distractions.
The Steelers players saluted Smith-Schuster as much for his approach and attitude as they did his performance, all qualities you would expect from veteran leaders like Brown and Roethlisberger.
Smith-Schuster is deserving of honors for a sensational sophomore season, as he has 106 receptions for 1,389 yards and six touchdowns. He has eight games with 100 or more yards and three with 10 or more receptions, including an 11-catch, 115-yard game at New Orleans this past Sunday. He’s evolved into an NFL star despite the Pro Bowl snub.
Problem is, Smith-Schuster isn’t even regarded as the best Steelers player at his own position. Brown has had a similar season to Smith-Schuster statistically but is superior in the most important category: touchdowns, especially of the winning variety.
Brown has 104 receptions for 1,297 yards, and his 15 touchdowns are the most among NFL receivers. Brown has five games with 100 or more yards and two with 10 or more receptions, including 14 catches for 185 yards and two scores against the Saints.
Smith-Schuster has an edge in yards per game (92.6 to 86.5), yards per catch (13.1 to 12.5) and catch percentage (67.9 to 61.9) but you can’t discount that Brown has the edge with two-and-a-half times more touchdowns. He caught a 31-yarder with 10 seconds left to beat the Bengals, a 25-yarder to the 2-yard line to set up Roethlisberger’s winning touchdown at Jacksonville and the go-ahead score on a 20-yard touchdown at the Saints.
That makes AB more valuable in my book.
But, as Brown likes to say, receivers can’t throw the ball to themselves.
Roethlisberger plays the game’s most important position, which automatically makes him the most valuable. And you can argue that he’s also been their best player this season, leading some to suggest that if the Steelers aren’t willing to recognize Roethlisberger as such then they should do away with the award.
Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 4,842 passing yards, 111 yards shy of his personal best and 158 shy of becoming only the sixth player in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards, and broke his own team record for touchdowns with 33. He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against Carolina, has a pair of 400-yard games and eight with 300 yards or more, including a 380-yard passing performance against the Saints.
Roethlisberger also is tied for the NFL lead with 15 interceptions, and some have proven costly. He had three interceptions and two fumbles in the tie at Cleveland and two interceptions at Denver, including one to nose tackle Shelby Harris in the end zone with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining.
Those turnovers led to crushing losses, and Big Ben deserves his share of blame for them. But Roethlisberger also rallied the Steelers to fourth-quarter comebacks for victories at Cincinnati with the touchdown pass to Brown with 10 seconds left, and at Jacksonville, when he scored on a 1-yard run with five seconds left.
And Roethlisberger also positioned the Steelers to win two other games with fourth-quarter comebacks, only for the defense to allow a last-second winning field goal against the Chargers and for Chris Boswell to miss a last-second, tying field goal against the Raiders.
You could argue that this has been one of Roethlisberger’s best seasons, even if you can’t ignore the interceptions. But if you’re going to blame Big Ben for his turnovers, that’s a knock Smith-Schuster shares after his fumble in the final minute at New Orleans.