The 1-1 Cleveland Browns on coming off a heartbreaking defeat to the NY Jets.
How will they respond?
Let’s take a look at our writer’s bold predictions for Thursday’s matchup.
Writer: Wendi Oliveros
Nobody could have predicted what happened in Week 2 with the Browns dropping the game at the last minute (literally) after what looked like an unbeatable lead over the New York Jets.
Worse than the game has been the fallout from it, and the finger-pointing about who did what and when that contributed to the loss.
It has been a disjointed week of player interviews that thankfully is over; last night’s team meeting hopefully settled whatever outstanding issues lingered since Sunday.
It is now time to deal with the Steelers.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 21, 2022
Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, and Jack Conklin will play on Thursday, but unfortunately, Jadeveon Clowney is out.
The Browns are listing Clowney as out, which was previously announced.
No designation for anyone else means Myles Garrett and Joel Bitonio will play – and would indicate Jack Conklin will play, too.
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) September 21, 2022
Having at least those three veterans healthy and on the field turns a potential loss into a victory, in my opinion.
The Browns’ defense hopefully cleaned up the miscommunications that keep rearing their ugly head at the end of games this season.
Special teams hopefully decided to go with a consistent returns specialist not named Demetric Felton.
And let’s hope we do not need to see any onside kick situations anytime soon.
The offense needs to keep humming since it hit a good stride against the Jets.
If all of that happens, the hometown crowd will get to see a close game that the Browns will ultimately win.
The final score of 17-10 and a victory over the Steelers will more than erase the bad memories of the Jets game.
My Prediction: Browns 17, Steelers10
Writer Pat Opperman
Last year, our quarterback ripped apart his shoulder in Week 2.
This year, it seems like the entire Cleveland Browns team is ripped apart, with fingers pointing and tongues wagging all around.
And it could have the same result of changing the Browns’ trajectory for the rest of the 2022 season.
Fortunately, smarter and more professional voices were heard after Myles Garrett called out fans and Denzel Ward called out teammates.
Nick Chubb needlessly took the blame for scoring a touchdown as if a rumored top-5 defense couldn’t be expected to hold a 13-point lead.
John Johnson, Anthony Walker, and Joel Bitonio were among others who put a better spin on Garrett’s and Ward’s statements.
And more importantly, everyone sat down to hash things out in a players-only meeting Tuesday.
The success of team leaders to re-focus the team after a soul-crushing defeat and subsequent sniping will be evident Thursday.
Few will be surprised if the Browns come out flat and let the underdog Steelers notch another victory in FirstEnergy.
But fewer will be surprised if the Browns come out barking and biting and leave the Steelers wondering what happened.
It’ll probably be something in the middle, but it better be closer to the barking and biting version.
Otherwise, Paul DePodesta might tell Anthony Berry to forget about continuity for a while and go fire someone.
For my own sanity, I choose to believe the team will come together.
I don’t even mind if they include the (rightfully) booing fans in a new players-against-the-world sentiment.
Anything can happen on Thursday nights, and Pittsburgh knows they have to open up their offense more.
Things could get crazy- like a genuine, NFL-level shootout between Mitch Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett.
But I trust Cleveland’s players will avoid back-to-back FirstEnergy disasters.
My Prediction: Browns 23, Steelers 17
Writer: Ben Donahue
Christmas came early for the New York Jets last Sunday.
With 1:33 remaining in their game against the Browns, New York was down by 13 points and backed up to their own 34-yard line.
Jets quarterback Joe Flacco connected with receiver Corey Davis for a terribly easy 66 yard touchdown strike.
Then, the Browns special teams unit allowed New York to corral an onside kick opportunity.
Finally, former OSU product Garrett Wilson caught the game winner from Flacco with 22 seconds remaining.
It was Wilson’s second touchdown of the game.
One can only assume based on the final 90 seconds of the game that the Browns got into the spirit of the holidays three months early.
They gave the Jets the game, wrapped in a nice shiny bow.
What can we expect when Pittsburgh comes to town on Thursday?
After two weeks, it’s evident Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a game manager.
So far this year, he has all of 362 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and a pick.
As the quarterback goes, so go his playmakers.
Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool have looked mortal.
The Pittsburgh defense is ranked 12th in the league, having given up 37 points combined in their first two games.
They have five picks so far this year and the Steelers are creating turnovers on a quarter of their defensive possessions.
Furthermore, the Pittsburgh D has allowed 4.0 yards per carry to opposing backs.
There are significant injury issues to consider for Thursday.
The Steelers are without T.J. Watt and the Browns have Jadeveon Clowney, Chase Winovich, Jesse James, and Greedy Williams all out.
Even worse, Myles Garrett is struggling with a neck issue.
Basically, this is going to be an ugly game.
If Cleveland doesn’t get its defense figured out and compensate for injuries on that side of the ball, the Steelers will come out victorious.
My Prediction: Steelers 24, Browns 20
Writer: Rocco Nuosci
The Cleveland Browns have a short week to figure out some big problems.
The defensive lapses Sunday against the Jets are inexcusable.
With finger pointing and player-only meetings going down this week, leadership is desperately needed in that locker room.
#Browns held a players-only meeting.
Not sure if that’s good or bad after two games.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) September 20, 2022
First place in the AFC North is on the line against the Steelers on Thursday.
Pittsburgh’s offense, like last season, looks atrocious once again.
Especially early in games, the Steelers struggle mightily in moving the football downfield.
In their past 11 games, the Steelers have gotten nearly as many first-half TDs from defense (2) as offense (3). Is there a NFL or major college offense with fewer than 3 first half TDs in past 11 games? And what about 0 TDs in 1st quarter in that stretch? This is incrinculent!
— Joe Starkey (@JoeStarkey1) September 20, 2022
Pittsburgh took down the Bengals in Cincinnati Week One but needed a +5 turnover differential to do so.
Last week, without T.J. Watt, they lost the turnover battle against New England and, sequentially, the game.
Watt is still out with a pectoral injury, a serious blow to Pittsburgh’s pass rush that didn’t sack Mac Jones at all in Week 2.
For Cleveland, keeping pressure off Brissett is crucial. Pittsburgh’s secondary thrives off rushed throws, which should come less frequently without Watt.
If they can limit Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward from doing damage, Brissett should have time to make sound decisions.
Defensively, it boils down to bottling up Najee Harris and slowing down Diontae Johnson.
Harris is behind a subpar offensive line and had under 50 yards on 15 carries last week.
Johnson is the primary receiver for Mitch Trubisky and gives their offense life.
If Cleveland’s secondary doesn’t give up easy stuff like they did to New York’s receivers on Sunday, it will be a long evening for Pittsburgh.
Winning the turnover battle is especially key as that’s been a huge part of Pittsburgh’s success the past two seasons.
Finger-pointing and excuses followed the loss to the Jets and leaked into this week, however.
That me questioning Cleveland’s focus for Thursday, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
My Prediction: Steelers 21, Browns 17