NFL Week 17 Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Cleveland Browns

By Curt Popejoy
Steelers Browns
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Writing an a article like this is hard. It’s never good to write a preview of an NFL game that is essentially meaningless. The Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from the NFL playoffs last weekend, and so in essence this weekend’s game against the Cleveland Browns is to play out the string so to speak. There is much debate across social media among Steelers fans this week about what the goals of this team should be in this final game. Let’s take a closer look.

On offense the Steelers appear to be business as usual. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to start and for the most part it will be all hands on deck. Wide receiver Mike Wallace isn’t going to play which could mean we’ve already seen Wallace play his final game as a Steeler. With all the backups playing for the Browns this weekend, I expect a very conservative offensive gameplan for the Steelers. Lots of running the football, lots of short passes and it will be interesting to to see who becomes Roethlisberger’s go to target with Wallace and tight end Heath Miller both out of the game. This is why I don’t expect to see anything fancy from the Steelers. Run the ball, run it some more and then run it a little more.

On defense it’s going to be a similar story. The Browns are beat up and will be starting plenty of backups, so the Steelers defense should be able to play loose and not get to exotic on defense. This weekend is the start of evaluations for the 2013 season so I’d be fine seeing some of the young guys on this defense getting some meaningful reps, particularly in the defensive secondary and at outside linebacker. This team has struggled to get any sort of pass rush or force turnoevers this season, so why not go out on a high note with a little of both?

But the real key to this game is going to be health. Losing Miller last weekend to a serious knee injury that will jeopardize the start of his season is bad enough, but if there were to be any further injuries to key starters it would really bring into question why they are on the field in the first place. If it were up to me(and I understand it is not), I would make wholesale changes to key starters just to be safe. Serious injuries in a game like this are madness. I am not proposing laying down and giving up. Those backups get paid a whole lot of money to play football so let them do it. The Browns are beat up as well and will be minus several key players. No reason I can see to jeopardize your core for a game like this. If the Steelers lose it will secure their first losing season since 2003.

Prediction-Ugly football. But I also expect the Steelers to win. They don’t want to finish the year 7-9, and I am hopeful they will play with enough pride to carry them through a game that neither team is really going to be that into. Steelers win in a close, low scoring game, and we all breathe a sigh of relief when the players all make it out alive.

I have heard several people say in recent weeks Steelers fans are spoiled and entitled. I suppose we are. 3 losing seasons in 20 years will do that to a fanbase. But Steelers fans are also smart and they are looking ahead to next year and turning things around like the Steelers have always done.

Follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for all things football related.

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