Thursday Night Football: Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Meaningless to some, important to others, the Cleveland Browns travel to Pittsburgh tonight to face the division rival and perennial AFC North powerhouse Steelers.

The Steelers enter tonight tied with Baltimore with a 9-3 record, and would do wonders to boost their numbers against a struggling 4-8 Browns team.  With the Ravens facing a putrid Indianapolis Colts club (0-12), the Steelers will need to focus on beating a team that they should beat and not look past this early week 14 matchup.

We can expect to see a bit of a defensive battle tonight.  The Steelers rank 1st in overall defense, allowing only 273.8 total yards on average per contest.  Cleveland and Pittsburgh rank 1,2 respectively in passing yards allowed, but rushing defensive is where these two teams differ.  Pittsburgh ranks 7th, Cleveland 31st.

Antonio Brown (REUTERS/Jason Cohn)

We have witnessed the Steelers go from a smash-mouth running game type team to more of a passing, modern team.  Ben Roethlisberger is an efficient passer and has some weapons in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Hines Ward, so it makes sense that they would mold an offense around these players.  It should be interesting to see how Big Ben handles the top passing defense.  This game being at Heinz Field helps the Steelers cause.

Cleveland Browns Quarterback Colt McCoy

The Browns have some young talent, but Colt McCoy is still a couple of years away from really breaking out.  The running back situation hasn’t done them any favors, and last season’s bust-out star, Peyton Hillis, has been predominantly a bust this season.  Madden curse?  Possibly.

Fans should expect a bit of a see-saw game in the beginning with defense clouding all better judgement.  If the Steelers can set up a good ground attack initially, the passing game should open up and start to put Cleveland back on their heels.  Hopefully for McCoy’s sake the Browns aren’t down big most of the game, or his INT numbers will go up.  My guess is he’ll probably throw a couple of picks, but one won’t be his fault.  Steelers keep pace and get a dirty score at the end to make it an over-reach for the Browns.

Steelers 31 – Browns 17