When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field against the Cleveland Browns for their Wild Card playoff game there will be significant advantages in the Steelers’ favor. Aside from the usual advantages, like the Steelers playing at Heinz Field, COVID-19 will hold a lot of Browns’ personnel out of this game. Even if every available coach and player were able to go in this game, I would still be favoring the Steelers. But in this 2021 COVID-19 world, their will be a significant impact, and the affected players almost strictly sit on the Browns side of the fence.
Further to the Browns COVID-19 problems is there run-in with injuries. Olivier Vernon tore his Achilles tendon in Week 17, and even Myles Garrett was seen favoring one of his shoulders. Some of the players on the Browns injury report include: Jack Conklin, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Wyatt Teller, Sheldon Richardson, and J.C. Tretter. While you can expect most of those players to be in the lineup Sunday, it is clear to see the Browns will be limping into this game.
Cleveland’s injuries to their offensive lineman are exacerbated by the loss of Joel Bitonio, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. For a team that relies so heavily on the run, and has committed to keeping Baker Mayfield on his feet, these losses are crippling for the Browns offense. Especially because the defense that has done the most damage to them is the Steelers, and those games have featured a nearly 100% healthy Browns attack.
Speaking of its offense, is their any bigger loss in this game than the Browns losing its offensive play caller and head coach Kevin Stefanski? Stefanski and five other Browns coaches will find themselves on the COVID-19 list and won't be available. Now the play calling will fall on the shoulders of Alex Van Pelt, the former Pitt Panthers quarterback that has never called plays for this Browns offense before.
The Browns don't have their playcaller for Sunday. The man who has called plays all season.— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) January 7, 2021
They haven't been able to physically gather all week and practice how they'll communicate with the person filling in as playcaller.
They have zero chance. None.
To top everything off, these COVID issues have forced the Browns to work from home for the better part of a week. Parts of Week 16, almost the entirety of Week 17, and Wednesday and Thursday this week the Browns’ facility has been closed. With all of these missing pieces, the Browns can't even practice with their replacements. The situation the Browns find themselves in is one of the most brutal mountains a team has ever had to climb. The deck is quite literally stacked against them and the Steelers must take advantage of these issues.
This would be one of the most embarrassing, inexcusable playoff losses in recent memory if the Steelers were not to win this game and punch their ticket to the Divisional round. This would include the Steelers getting shredded by Blake Bortles to the tune of 45 points, and the Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas overtime game of 2012.
The Steelers cannot feel sorry for the Browns, this team needs to go out and stomp on the throat of this wounded enemy and stroll their way to the next round.
What do you think? Will the Steelers take care of business on Sunday night? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.