'Bold Predictions' is Steel City Underground's feature where our SCU team members have shifted from throwing caution to the wind in how crazy they'll go in their prognostications to a more objective, yet still bold, set of predictions on how Pittsburgh will, or will not, handle business this week.
The last time Team SCU put out a 'Bold Predictions' against the Cleveland Browns (Week 11), everything that could possibly go wrong in the game nearly did. It was not a pretty game and the ugliness in the final seconds rocked the football world. In fact, things got so ugly that the fanbases of the Steelers and the Browns still have yet to settle down and there will be a few players who won't be in uniform at Heinz Field when the two teams meet again this weekend. Still, there is some optimism coming from the Steel City Underground backrooms, so...
Here We Go!
With the win that came from "Duck" hitting the field and spinning instant magic on his second pass with a 79-yard touchdown strike to James Washington in last Sunday's 16-10 beating of division foe (Cincinnati) Bengals, all of a sudden the Steelers are in playoff contention. At 6-5 they have squeaked onto the wild card board in the sixth spot. The Steelers defense has taken us this far and now Tomlin has chosen the path that “won’t kill us” in 3rd-string QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges starting Sunday as the Browns come to Pittsburgh, to start another brawl I’m sure. However, without their defensive king Miles Garrett (who’s on suspension) and Terrible Towels waiving, Cleveland should get a beatdown of their own. I predict over 100 yards rushing and a 2 touchdown day for RB Bennie Snell and after a day of duck hunting together this week, Hodges and WR James Washington should find a couple of TD connections as well. The Steelers defense will be out for blood and Baker Mayfield will run into 5 sacks, 3 from our DPOY T.J. Watt. I anticipate a physical game and an important win for the Steelers, who are literally running on empty. 31-10 Steelers.
There have been some changes to the offense in recent weeks, with the addition of Kerrith Whyte, Deon Cain, and now Duck Hodges taking over as the starting quarterback. But that’s what happens when the offense isn’t performing. Now, with another week in this offense, expect a much larger contribution from Whyte, as he will carry the ball 8+ times for 50+ yards, solidifying himself as a viable rushing option for this Steelers offense. And, this week, Washington takes another step forward in becoming the Steelers' full-time WR2, going for over 100 yards and another touchdown. Duck will manage the game and do just enough to win, but the defense will continue to lead the charge. There’s a chip on the shoulder of that defense after barely knocking Mayfield down last game (between these two teams), so this matchup, Pittsburgh will notch 5 sacks of the sophomore quarterback. All in all, the Steelers control this game from beginning to end in an easy rematch victory.
Although I am more cautiously optimistic than my SCU counterparts about the outcome of this rematch, I think that the Pittsburgh Steelers have dealt with enough vitriol from Cleveland Browns fans, players, social media, and members of the media on top of the Mason Rudolph pinatas and inappropriate "gifts" sent to the Steelers' front office than they can stomach. If there has ever been a bitterness heading into a game this season, I think this weekend's game will be one where this Steelers team just turns their head and spits it out. I don't see Pittsburgh running away with the game, necessarily. I do see certain veteran players - namely Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster - looking around the locker room and telling their teammates what this game really means: shutting the mouths of those who've been spewing nothing but negativity (including some of their own fan base) by doubling-down with better play on both sides of the ball. Devlin Hodges may give the offense a spark, but I think he'll be expecting plenty of help from his teammates on offense. Getting the run game established early should help soften the Browns defense up for Hodges to find open receiving targets. The protection by the offensive line will be improved. On defense, I expect Mayfield to be completely harassed into making mistakes by near-constant pressure, especially from Heyward and Watt. Watch for Bud Dupree to make a big splash play. The Steelers grab a takeaway on defense to add insult to injury as they take care of business at home.