When the 5-4 Pittsburgh Steelers host the 2-7 Cleveland Browns on Sunday, go ahead and throw out the records. These two ancient rivals despise one another and anything is bound to happen. Pittsburgh is in line for the top Wildcard spot and a win would go a long way to securing that spot. Cleveland is looking to get something going. But against their AFC North rivals, they are hungry to win. Both teams have top players on the injury list, so "next man up" is crucial.
Ponder these matchups as being key in the outcome of this battle.
Key Matchup #1
QB Landry Jones vs QB Johnny Manziel
Analysis: Who is starting at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Who is starting at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns? The answer is still as murky as the Monongahela in March. Even though Ben Roethlisberger is out of his walking boot and lobbying to play, at this point it doesn't seem likely that Big Ben will get his wish granted. For the Browns, Josh McCown is unlikely to start due to an injury to his ribs. The report out of Cleveland states that Manziel is taking first-team reps, but that McCown has been stepping it up in practice. If either of the QB1s take the field on Sunday, it won't be a complete shock.
With the arsenal of weapons surrounding him, Jones has the advantage here. He has established a good rapport with both of the gamebreakers that he has at his disposal. In relief against Arizona and his start in Kansas City, Jones hooked up with Bryant for three scores. In his relief appearance against Oakland, the Landry-Antonio connection was paramount in the late win.
Jones did not look good in his only start against KC, but he was playing with a LT (Al Villanueva) who was making his first start also. Both have gained great experience since then and Jones has a talented workhorse in Deangelo Williams to rely on.
Manziel has barely seen any action against the Steelers and is playing behind a line that may have him scampering for his life. Johnny Football has completed 43 of 83 for a percentage of 51.8 and has accumulated 561 yards on the season. He is currently ranked 41st among quarterbacks on the year. With an average of 112 yards passing-per-game, Manziel will be the least formidable passing threat that the Steelers have seen all year. McCown, with 11 touchdowns and four picks, has a 65% completion rate. He would pose much more of a challenge to Pittsburgh's defensive backfield.