Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gameday: Cleveland Browns

Heinz Field
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Last Ride for 99 and 25

In what seems to be a common theme over recent years, the Steelers will likely be bidding farewell to two of their longstanding starters. Both Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark's contracts expire at the end of this season and it is unlikely that either will return next year. Get a good look at these two in black and gold, because it is probably the last time you'll see them.

2. Record Chasing

Antonio Brown has already broken the Steelers single-season receiving yards record and is the first Steelers receiver to ever top 1400-yards. Brown is 11 catches shy of tying Hines Ward's record of 112 receptions and would need 12 catches in the finale against Cleveland to surpass Hines. Joe Haden is listed as "questionable" and it would be to AB's advantage if Haden doesn't suit up. Brown also needs at least 70 yards to set the Steelers single-season record for most yards per game, which is currently held by Buddy Dial who averaged 92.5 in 1963. Ben Roethlisberger has already surpassed his previously-held franchise records for attempts and completions in a season and needs 247 yards to break his own single-season yardage record. The franchise record for touchdown passes (32) seems a bit out of reach (Ben has 27 right now), but with 2 TD passes, Ben's 2013 season could move into 2nd on the franchise list. Finally, Shaun Suisham is currently 28 of 30 (93.3%) which is tied for the best single-season field goal percentage in franchise history with Gary Anderson (who was also 28-of-30 in 1993).

3. The Scoreboard

Somehow, some way, the Steelers are still in the playoff hunt. Football Outsiders has put the Steelers chances at about 9%. All it takes is 4 steps: the Steelers beat the Browns, the Jets beat the Dolphins, the Bengals beat the Ravens, and the Chiefs beat the Chargers. The first 3 games are all at 1:00, which means we'll be doing plenty of scoreboard watching during the game. Of course, it could all go to hell at 4:25 when Andy Reid makes the final decision on which starters he will play and which he will rest.

4. Finish Strong

Sitting at 2-6 at the halfway mark of the season, it seemed almost impossible that the Steelers could rebound to an 8-8 finish. Now, despite everything else that has happened this year, the Steelers can not only finish 8-8 but could make the playoffs. On one hand that is a testament to how bad the AFC is this year. This is also not a time to feel sorry for ourselves that we are in this position. When you lose games to Oakland and Tennessee and Minnesota, this is the situation you find yourself in, relying on other teams to win. That said, this season has an entirely different feel to it than last year. In 2012, the Steelers limped to a 3-5 finish and played themselves out of playoff contention. This season, they are closing strong at 5-2 over the second half of the season and the offense is clicking. Since losing to Oakland, the Steelers haven't been held under 20 points and have surpassed 27 points all but twice. Contrast that with the first 7 games when the Steelers highest output was 27 and they only broke 20 points twice. These are all good signs heading into next season and the most important thing this team can do is finish with a strong showing and a win over the Browns.

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