With 6 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our forecasts for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that Mike Hilton will receive a new contract before the start of training camp, I turn my attention toward the Steelers’ oldest AFC North rival
Prediction: The Steelers will beat the Cleveland Browns twice in 2019.
Why it will happen: While there are a number of supposed experts who are already fitting the Cleveland Browns for the AFC North crown this offseason, they still have to go through Pittsburgh if they want to win their first division title since 1989. And regardless of all the hype surrounding the Browns in 2019, they remain a team made up mostly of players and coaches who have never experienced a win over the Steelers.
Even with an intimate knowledge of the Pittsburgh offense in 2018 thanks to the hire of former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Browns still could not get the job done during a down year for Pittsburgh.
Games against Cleveland have resulted in two wins a season almost every year since their reincarnation in 1999, with the Steelers boasting 34-6-1 in that time. A trend that would have repeated itself once again in 2018 if not for a missed field goal by Chris Boswell in Week 1.
Carrying a weight of expectation they have not experienced in decades, the Browns will follow a man who has never been a head coach at any level in Freddie Kitchens, supported by a cast that includes temperamental wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., suspended running back Kareem Hunt and a quarterback potentially headed for a sophomore slump.
Fired Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks has yet another new scheme for the players to learn after taking over as defensive coordinator from Greg Williams. And for all the ability that Beckham brings to the offense, the loss of Kevin Zeitler as part of the deal has unquestionable impacted the quality of the line protecting Mayfield.
In contrast, the Steelers have lost one key player from 2018 and added a top 10 draft pick on defense at a position of need, as well as a veteran starters at receiver and cornerback. Continuity also remains among the coaching staff of team team suitably motivated to prove the doubters wrong.
The bookmakers might like the Browns in 2019, but I will be backing the Steelers to win both of their matchups against them with some confidence.
Why it won’t happen: No matter how much I might let my disdain for the Browns influence my opinion of them, it is impossible to ignore the improvements the moribund franchise made in 2018. The dismissal of Hue Jackson was a move that should have come after his first season in Cleveland and new general manger John Dorsey appears to finally have the team on the right track.
The performances of Mayfield during his rookie season suggests the Browns might have have found a quarterback capable of seeing out a contract in Cleveland for once, someone who could be a real thorn in the Steelers side for years to come. And regardless of what he gets up to off the field, much like Antonio Brown, Beckham usually shows up big on game day.
Names like third-year defensive lineman Myles Garrett and second-year cornerback Denzel Ward have also given the Browns genuine talents on defense as part of a unit that could improve this year.
As much as it would be nice to be able to say that this is the same old Cleveland Browns team we have all been laughing at for decades, that is simply not the case anymore.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns twice in 2019?
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