Saturday, December 27, 2008

Steelers-Browns Preview

After taking a few days off from posting, I decided to make a brief return today to give you something of a Steelers-Browns preview for tomorrow's game... but in all honesty, have you ever been less excited for a game against the Browns? I haven't. The Steelers could win 70-0 with Willie Parker breaking the single game rushing record and Troy Polamalu picking 6 passes (both distinct possibilities) and I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
For one, the Steelers have absolutely, positively nothing to play for. Yeah, Mike Tomlin is claiming the Steelers will play to win, and that the starters will play for a while, but I'll believe that when I see it. Tomlin went to the Tony Dungy school of coaching, and Dungy has long rested guys with nothing to play for, and I think Mike similarly follows suit, getting the key guys out there for a good portion of the first half, and then turning things over in the second half to Byron Leftwich, Gary Russell, Limas Sweed, Keyaron Fox, and Anthony Madison. Not exactly the most exciting setup for a ball game.
And this goes without mentioning that the Browns would probably struggle to beat the Florida Gators or Oklahoma Sooners right now. I mean, honestly, how badly injured is Bruce Gradkowski going to be after this game? He has almost no familiarity with this offense, the Browns have clearly and decisively quit on Romeo Crennel, their receivers are miserable, and the Steelers D is pissed off after getting knocked around last week. Just a recipe for disaster for poor Bruce. If something were to happen to Bruce, and Ken Dorsey is in fact too hurt to play, the Brownies will turn to Richard Bartel. At this point, you're surely asking yourself, who is Richard Bartel? Well, he went to the football mecca that is Tarleton State and here's a photo just for fun:
Now, I follow the NFL Draft and college sports as closely as just about anyone who isn't actually paid to do so, and I can honestly say that I have never heard of Richard Bartel and have never heard of Tarleton State, and I honestly can't even fathom how the Browns found out about this guy. He's spent the last two years on the Cowboys practice squad, so I guess there's that, but I will be rooting like crazy to see the deer-in-the-headlights look on this kid's face if he has to playing against the snarling, salivating Steelers D. I wonder how many pieces he'll be in after the Steelers inevitably destory him? Will the people at the funeral home recommend a closed-casket service so as not to disturb the family and people in attendance? So many questions, so little talent on the Browns roster. In all seriousness, though, the only QB on the Browns roster who does scare me is Josh Cribbs, the former college QB, because that guy can flat out play. I think the Browns would probably just be best served to run the wildcat the entire game and literally not throw a single pass the entire day. When you're the Browns, to paraphrase Woody Hayes, only 2 things can happen when you throw the ball, and 2 of them are bad, because there's no way Cleveland's completing a pass with awful quarterbacks and Braylon Edwards' seasonlong Dr. Strange Glove impersonation.
The one interesting thing to keep an eye on for the Steelers will be Hines Ward's attempt at 1000 yards receiving. Hines is just 27 yards away from his 5th 1000 yard season, and his first since 2004. He was very close in 05 and 06, and I hope that the Steelers give him a chance to get there. All it would really take would be 2 maybe 3 completions his way and he'd be set. That's not too much to ask, is it? He should get that by halftime with little trouble and then can pop a squat like the rest of the Steelers for the second half.
I suppose I should put together a prediction, so here goes: Steelers 28 Browns 14 in one of the most pathetic football games you will ever see. Ben and the D combine to put a 14-0 lead on the Browns in the first quarter, then pop a squat the rest of the way as the Steelers roll. And Hines gets something like 30 yards receiving to just top 1000 yards and is then hauled off the field.

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