By Austin Green,
The Pittsburgh Steelers will limp into Cleveland this Sunday with their third-string quarterback starting under center. Still, you have to like their chances against their AFC North “rivals.”
The Steelers have beaten the Browns in 15 of their last 16 meetings, including four in a row. They’ll look to extend that streak in Week 12, but will have to do so with 37-year-old Charlie Batch running the show.
Ben Roethlisberger is missing his second straight week, and Byron Leftwich suffered a broken rib last Sunday against Baltimore. Now, the Steelers will be handing the ball to Batch, a 15-year veteran who has gone 5-2 in his last seven starts.
Batch has proven himself in the past, and he should be comfortable on Sunday. He won’t have to do too much, as Pittsburgh can rely on its running back tandem of Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer. The Browns rank 25th in the league in run defense (125.3 yards per game), so expect a heavy dose of Mendenhall and Dwyer this week.
Of course, the Browns are no pushover. They’ve played pretty well the last five weeks, winning two games and losing the other three by an average of just 5.6 points. If Brandon Weeden takes care of the ball and Trent Richardson wreaks some havoc on the ground, Cleveland could pull off the upset.
When: Sunday, November 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, OH
TV: CBS (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread Info: Steelers -1 (via The Linemakers)
Over/Under: 36.5 (via The Linemakers)
Steelers via ESPN (as of Nov. 22)
Isaac Redman, RB, probable
Antonio Brown, WR, questionable
Browns via ESPN (as of Nov. 22)
Joe Haden, CB, questionable
Josh Cooper, WR, questionable
Fantasy Big Plays
Steelers: Jonathan Dwyer, RB
I’m not expecting any of the Steelers to put up huge fantasy numbers, especially with all their injuries. That said, Dwyer has rushed for over 100 yards twice this season, and although he’ll be splitting carries with Mendenhall, he’s facing a good matchup in Cleveland.
Dwyer likely won’t explode this week, but if you’re in a pinch at running back, he’s a decent option.
Projected Stats: 14 carries for 72 yards
Browns: Trent Richardson, RB
Richardson is facing a stout Steelers defense, but I still think he’ll put up some quality numbers on Sunday. He’s rushed for at least 95 yards in his last three games, and with the Browns likely hesitant to put much faith in Brandon Weeden, he should be seeing plenty of touches.
His yards per carry won’t be great (at all), but Richardson will get plenty of chances. If he’s on your roster, he’s worth a start.
Projected Stats: 27 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown
Key to Victory: Field-goal kicking
That’s right, field-goal kicking.
In a game that features the league’s worst rookie starting quarterback and a 37-year-old career backup, I’m not expecting a ton of points. That means the pressure will be on Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham and Cleveland’s Phil Dawson.
This year, Dawson is a perfect 19 of 19, including five field goals of 50-plus yards. Suisham has also been excellent, hitting 21 of 22. However, he’s only made one from 50-plus yards.
The kickers will play a large role in this game, as both offenses will likely struggle to find the end zone. Whichever kicker can deliver consistently will give his team a huge boost.
As much as some may want to take the underdog Browns, I’m riding Pittsburgh this week. Batch knows how to manage a game, and with an incredibly strong defense on his side, he won’t have to make any spectacular plays.
Look for Mendenhall and Dwyer to carve up the Browns, while the Steelers’ intimidating defense stifles Cleveland’s attack.
Final Score: Steelers 16, Cleveland 10