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The Simple Truth: How things will shake out in Steelers vs. Browns Week 17

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A quick look at scenarios that could lead to the Steelers finishing the season 11-5 or handing the Browns their second win of 2016.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the Steelers’ 2016 regular season has been interesting, and somewhat frustrating at times, would be a massive understatement. After all the drama, injuries, head-shaking losses, terrific wins and everything in between, the Steelers are locked in as the number three seed in the AFC playoffs and able to rest a bunch of starters as they host the Browns for the final regular season match-up. Let’s take a look at soe scenarios that will lead to the Steelers’ 11th win or the Browns’ 2nd.

Why the Steelers will win:

  • DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Touissant will run all over the bottom-ranked Cleveland run defense. The Browns are ranked 30th and 31st in almost every statistical run defense category, according to teamrankings.com. Williams has got to be chomping at the bit to shake off the rust after missing eight weeks with injuries. What better way to showcase that he is still the best option to back-up Le’Veon Bell than to get some real positive carries against this defense. Fitz will probably see the most carries and I expect him to have a decent outing as well. Let’s face it, the Browns’ run defense is as porous as it’s ever been. Even without a few starters on the offensive line, the Steelers should have plenty of success on the ground.
  • Quarterback Landry Jones plays with poise. All of Steelers’ Nation knows this game means nothing in regards to the playoffs. There is no pressure to win, other than the pride of sweeping another AFC North team this year. Landry Jones has proven to be an inconsistent starting quarterback at the professional level, at best. The pressure may come from playing for a job next year, either on the Steelers roster or elsewhere. If Jones can play like there’s nothing to lose, he could have a solid game.
  • The Pittsburgh defense, minus a few starters, will play to win. I’m the first guy to admit that I despise Ray Lewis .“Wait, why are you talking about Ray Lewis?” You ask. Stand by I’m about to tell you. His phrase that was the television trademark phrase for under Armour for a few years, “We must protect this house!” is a classic and I know that the men in Black and Gold who play defense on Sunday will live by their own version of this mantra as they effort to keep the Browns off the scoreboard. And let’s face it, Mike Tomlin can’t rest everybody. There will be plenty of every week starters on the field with the handful of backups and they will be playing for the win in front of the home crowd.
  • It’s a home game against the Cleveland Browns in 2016. The Browns stink. They’ve won one game this season and had a bit of a quarterback carousel all year. It’s very difficult to get into a rhythm on offense when the man under center is different every couple of weeks and you let very good offensive linemen walk in free agency.

Why the Browns will win:

  • The Steelers play safe, looking ahead to week one of the playoffs instead of playing for the win. If Steelers players on both sides of the ball “phone it in” because they don’t want to get injured or just don’t care about this game while looking ahead to the wild card round, the Browns could take advantage and pull out the upset. I could hardly blame players for not playing their best in an otherwise meaningless game, except that as a fan I always want the men on the field to put their best foot forward, especially against division foes.
  • Landry Jones plays like, well, Landry Jones. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Full disclosure, I am also a Sooner fan, and I liked Jones at Oklahoma. That being said, I get the impression he’s never made great strides towards improving his overall game as a starter. The part of their defense that the Browns are not in the bottom two in ranking is their passing defense, but that’s probably due more to the fact that teams have literally run all over them. If Jones is inaccurate and inconsistent, the Browns secondary could make some plays and give their team excellent field position.

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At the final whistle, it would be nice to see the Steelers close out the regular season with their seventh straight win as they endeavor to bring home their seventh Lombardi Trophy. All they need is to come out this game intact from an injury perspective. I think the talent and on the Steelers’ roster and the momentum that’s built up over the last six weeks will carry the day and give Pittsburgh the win, an 11-5 record, and even more momentum going into the playoffs.