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Regular Season Game Sixteen at Cleveland: Keys and Prediction

The finale of the 2010 season for the regular season is here, and with it the Steelers are headed for the postseason. But, that does not mean that the finale in Cleveland does not have its strong meaning. The Steelers can clinch the AFC North for the 3rd time in four years with the win, and also can have plenty of rest before their first playoff game with a win. A loss and the team may very well have to go on the road to either Indy or KC next weekend. So make no mistake, the Steelers are out to win in Cleveland Sunday against the 5-win Browns.

1. Control the Line – Pretty simple tactic, be the more physical team, and control the line of scrimmage. Cleveland has been crushed on the ground the past few weeks, allowing 541 yards rushing over the past three weeks. You have a workhorse back in Rashard Mendenhall, and the last time the Steelers played the Browns, they ran for 121 yards. If would be a letdown if they didn’t go for at least 150 on the ground in this game, with Mendy, Moore and Redmen all getting lots of touches.

2. Contain Cribbs – It’s sounding more and more like Peyton Hills will not play due to an injury to his ribs, meaning that it’s up to Josh Cribbs to be about the only real offensive and special teams playmaker Cleveland has. The Steelers knew this last December, yet allowed him to run for 87 yards and also to have a 55-yard punt return. Kick away from him, and anytime he’s in the game lined up at QB, play him with 9-10 in the box, because this year he’s thrown two passes for 19 yards, and that probably isn’t going to change much Sunday.

3. Play Up on McCoy – Browns rookie QB Colt McCoy isn’t going to make anyone forget about John Elway or Randall Cunningham anytime soon. In other words, don’t worry about the deep ball. The Browns are one of those teams that make a living on short passes, and trying to break a tackle or two. Take into account that McCoy’s longest pass is 47 yards, and his yards per pass is just 7.6. He has been pretty accurate, but at the same time, he’s nothing more than a “dink and dunk” QB that has yet to show he can throw the deep ball.

Prediction – I realize it sucked when it happened, but losing last December in Cleveland may be the best thing that has happened to the Steelers in sometime. It should be MORE than enough medicine to refocus them for this game, and with the Browns wondering if they will have a new coach Monday, and likely without Peyton Hillis, it would be hard to see the Steelers not jumping on the Browns and taking care of business here in a big way. Pittsburgh 31 Cleveland 13

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DrGeorge

    January 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

    All good points, Matt. And I especially like No. 3. The Steelers should have been doing that all season, as many other defenses do. But the Steelers D lacks the personnel to play man to man against the top tier QBs. However, at least 60% of NFL teams haven’t got a top tier QB like Brady, Manning, et al. Or they lack a credible deep threat at WR. Cutting off the short routes makes them as one dimensional as stopping the run makes good teams one dimensional.

    Having said that, I don’t think LeBeau will do it, even against McCoy. A defensive coach can’t be faulted if teams march the ball steadily down the field against his D and score. That looks like a deficiency in the players, even though it is entirely due to the scheme. But if an opposing QB throws deep for 55 yards, then the coach catches hell for not playing the guys deep enough. My guess is that McCoy is going to have all the short routes he wants, while we pass defend in the old fashioned way. That isn’t a knock on LeBeau. He simply knows he hasn’t got the talent for it.

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