The Pittsburgh Steelers open up the 2017 season Sunday in Cleveland. Get ready for kickoff with the top three match-ups to keep an eye on in the game.
On Sunday the Steelers will play the Browns for the 129th time. The Steelers lead the series 70-58 and look to make that win column grow by one.
The Steelers, on paper, are a better team than the Browns but that is why you play the games. The Browns gave Pittsburgh all they could handle in week 11 before finally losing 24-9.
The game will be full of intriguing match-ups to keep tabs on. Here we will break down these match-ups.
The first match-up to keep an eye on his newly acquired corner Joe Haden against recently traded receiver Sammie Coates. Haden will likely guard him at some point and seeing the two go at it could be fun to watch.
Haden and Coates will both look to show out against their former teams. Coates wants to show the Steelers what they lost by trading him and what better way than to burn the corner they signed from his new team in Cleveland?
Haden has impressed Keith Butler in practice, per this tweet from Aditi Kinkhabwala. Keeping up with Heyward-Bey is a very promising sign for Haden.
If he does indeed have to cover Coates on Sunday at any point, he will need to be able to keep up as Coates’ main weapon is his speed.
Coates will want to blow the top off the defense and prove he is what the Steelers hoped he would be. He will also, however, look to make the catches he should be making. The main explanation of his trade was lack of consistency and injury history.
The second match-up in this game to watch for is Big Ben against the entire Cleveland defense. Ben has had great success in his career against the Browns.
Big Ben owns a 21-2 record against Cleveland in his career and has posted a solid stat line overall. He has thrown for 5,490 yards 35 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Roethlisberger will have his entire stable of weapons to start this game for the first time since 2015. Bell, Brown and Bryant will be together on the field and that is enough to excite any NFL quarterback.
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Ben will look to exploit all the match-ups at his disposal including his newly acquired tight end Vance McDonald. He will also have rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, and Justin Hunter.
The weapons available to Big Ben are plentiful. The offense, on paper, is powerful and has the potential to be the best in the league.
The third and last match-up is the Brown and Bryant tandem against the Cleveland secondary. The duo is together for the first time since the 2015 wildcard game in Cincinnati.
Antonio Brown spent much of last year without a legitimate threat across from him. This allowed teams to focus solely on stopping him at receiver while also keying Le’Veon Bell.
Now the opposing defenses have a third threat to account for. Martavis Bryant is a big play threat and will take some attention off the other two killer B’s.
Brown had a “down year” by the standards he has set for himself in 2016 but still managed 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns on 106 catches. This was all with most of the defensive attention on him.
Bryant takes nearly half of that attention to himself with his return. He will assuredly open up more room for Brown against most secondaries in the league.
The Steelers have many match-ups that can be watched in week one but these are my top three. Honorable mention would be T.J. Watt against All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas. The rookie will have more than a handful battling him for 60 minutes.
The Steelers have to take this game seriously and make a statement. Winning these three match-ups will go a long way in ensuring they begin the 2017 season on the right foot.