Can the Pittsburgh Steelers Get Revenge Against the Injury-Riddled Cleveland Browns?

(David Richard/Associated Press)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a huge game on deck this weekend, heading to Cleveland to take on the Browns this Sunday at 1:00 PM.  They will be looking to exact revenge after being knocked out of the playoffs the last time these two teams faced off.  While the Steelers will undoubtedly want to make a statement in this game, there's a good chance we'll be seeing a different looking Browns teams this weekend than what we saw in last season's Wild Card game.

Cleveland Plagued by Injuries

The past few weeks, there's been a lot of talk surrounding this Browns squad, but not in a good way.  They've been hit with a slew of injuries that have really taken a toll on the team.  As I was preparing to write this, I wasn't even entirely sure who was and wasn't going to play this week  So before talking about the game itself, I wanted to touch on who will actually be suiting up in the white and orange on Sunday.

The most important place to start is with the quarterback, Baker Mayfield.  Mayfield has been battling a a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder for most of this season, but he continued to play through the injury, albeit inconsistently.  Then, two weeks ago in their game against the Arizona Cardinals, Mayfield took a hit and landed awkwardly on that same arm, not only aggravating his shoulder injury further but also fracturing his humerus bone.

This led to the quarterback missing last week's game against the Denver Broncos, with backup Case Keenum playing in his place.  Keenum played about as mediocre of a game that you can play, completing 21 of 33 for 199 yards and one touchdown, but led the team to a 17-14 win.  Surprisingly, Mayfield has returned to practice this week, wearing heavy padding on his non-throwing arm.  At this point, it appears to be a pain tolerance issue for the quarterback, stating this week it's "absolutely" possible that he could play Sunday.  However, he needs to be cleared by team doctors in order to do so, where they must determine if he can properly protect himself from worsening his injuries.

The other injury concerns lie with the two-headed monster the Browns have at running back, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.  Neither was able to play last week against Denver, both missing out due to calf injuries.  In their stead, third-stringer D'Ernest Johnson filled in admirably, accumulating the highest PFF score for a running back this season.  Hunt is on Injured Reserve, so he will miss out once again; however, Chubb is ready to go and will return to his lead back role, with Johnson replacing Hunt as the second head of the monster.

Can the Steelers Stop the Run?

A lot of this game will come down to the Steelers' ability to stop the vaunted Cleveland running game.  The Browns want to run the ball and have been doing so effectively all year.  Last week, without their top two running backs and starting right tackle Jack Conklin, they were still able to run for 182 yards.  It seems like a decision on Mayfield won't come until game time.  Whether it's banged up Mayfield or long-time backup Keenum starting, I expect the Browns game plan to be the same - ground and pound.

The Steelers rank in the middle of the pack in rush defense across the league this season.  They're coming off their most recent game where they allowed Seattle Seahawks backup running back Alex Collins to eclipse the 100 yard mark against them.  The situation for Seattle was not all that different from the Browns this week where they were also missing their starting quarterback.  The thing going for the Steelers in this one is they are coming out of their bye week, so they've had extra time to prepare for the Browns' run attack.  If you're curious how the Steelers typically fare out of their bye week, I highly suggest reading Antonio Wolfe's writings on that matter here.

Steelers Look for Revenge

While there might be a few things up in the air on the Cleveland side, the Steelers have no doubts about the task at hand.  The 48-37 humiliation they suffered in last year's Wild Card game is sure to still be fresh in their minds.  Not to mention, the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph incident still lingers in everyone's memories.  There's no love lost between these two teams and I expect that to show on the field Sunday.  The Steelers come into the game as 3.5 point underdogs but Cleveland has basically been quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's home away from home.


Roethlisberger sports an astonishing career record of 24-2-1 against Cleveland.  While this is a much different team than what he faced in his earlier playing days, this is still a team he knows how to beat.  I like the Steelers to come out with some tenacity in this game.  Coach Mike Tomlin is sure to have the boys fired up out of the bye week, reminding them incessantly how this team ended their title hopes last season.  

If the defense is able to keep the Cleveland rushing attack in check, I like the Steelers to take advantage of an injury-riddled Browns team.  That may be a big "if", but I'm confident they're up for the task.  Revenge is a dish best served cold and that's exactly what I'm expecting the Steelers to bring to the Halloween party Sunday.