Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced off against a downtrodden franchise struggling to climb out of the abyss. This week, the Steelers face another downtrodden franchise, albeit one that seems to be moving in the opposite direction towards rock bottom. The stunning ineptitude of the Cleveland Browns has transformed what used to be one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history into the football version of whack-a-mole.
The Browns featured the second-most anemic offensive attack in the league last year. So what did they do? They traded Joey Porter‘s BFF Kellen Winslow to Tampa, lost Donte Stallworth to a season-long suspension for killing somebody in a DUI accident, and just recently swapped star WR Braylon Edwards to the Jets for a shoddy bomb casing filled with used pinball machine parts. That was the second time the Jets took advantage of ex-coach Eric Mangini‘s new team. They were also the ones who swapped first round picks with Cleveland, allowing them to move up and take rookie sensation QB Mark Sanchez.
QB is one spot the Browns could sorely use right now. They started the season with the league’s most fabulous quarterback, Brady Quinn. Quinn was terribly ineffective as, surprisingly, any man-on-man contact seems to make him play like a scared little girl. Last week, they turned to Derek Anderson, who led the team to a 10-6 record and made an appearance in the Pro Bowl back in 2007. Anderson responded by leading the team to their first victory of the season despite passing for… No. Words cannot justify how pathetic he was last week. Take a look at his stats for yourself and keep in mind he played a 60 minute game and WON!
The Steelers offense will likely be the same maddening mix of too many passes and not enough runs with a sprinkling of Ben Roethlisberger heroics. Speaking of the running game, Rashard Mendenhall was ill part of this week while Willie Parker returned to practice. FWP has a special shoe designed to protect his Turf Toe so he is likely to play on Sunday. Man, I can’t even get my Chuck Taylor’s in black unless I custom order them.
The defense they will be working against ranked in the bottom quarter of the league each season under former coach Romeo Crennel. Mangini decided to copy the Steelers switch to a 3-4. His boneheaded trades brought over a handful of former Jets, including DE Kenyon Coleman and LBs Eric Barton and David Bowens, to upgrade the defensive side of the ball. They are currently near the bottom in points given up per game and dead last in rushing yards allowed so whomever carries the ball for us is in line for a good day. At least until Bruce Arians decides to throw 40 yard bombs on every play.
The Steelers D will be welcoming back Troy Polamalu. Polamalu, who’ll play with a brace on his injured knee, seems confident the injury won’t have any noticeable affect on either his play or shiny full-bodied hair. The sad state of Cleveland QB play won’t be much of a test. What will be tested is our suddenly questionable run defense. With Aaron Smith gone for the year, our best run-stopper is no longer available. Jamal Lewis piled up 117 yards last week and despite getting up there in years, shows little sign of slowing down. This will be an interesting warm-up for the law firm of Kirschke, Eason, & Hood before the main event next week in Minnesota.
Last year, the Steelers narrowly defeated a terrible Browns team 10-6 very early in the season. They did obliterate them in the rematch but as last week in Detroit has shown, “any given Sunday.” And while I don’t think this Sunday will be given to Cleveland, I do hope to see a good effort from the Steelers. The schedule only gets tougher from here so if this team has championship potential in them, now is the time to start showing it.