Friday, October 15, 2010

Steelers Beware--and Be Good

In way too many ways, the Cleveland Browns don't have a chance when they travel to Pittsburgh Sunday to play the Steelers. Even in the Browns' good years the Steelers dominate them at home, and this isn't a good year by any stretch--they are 1-3, the mirror opposite of the Steelers. Their quarterbacks are hurt, so they are starting their rookie, who has never played an NFL game. Their star running back, pretty much their entire offense so far, is hurting.

On the Steelers side, they have won 3 games with their 3rd and 4th string quarterbacks. They are out for revenge for their poor game losing to Cleveland at home last year. And, oh yeah, they are getting their quarterback back, Ben Roethlisberger.

Expectations are high, not only for this game, but James Walker at ESPN makes the case for them as the NFL's one dominant team. Though I anticipate that possibility, this snowballing of expectations could be trouble.

Apart from the Steelers not putting out the effort--which I think is unlikely--there are two main dangers which could combine to shoot up those expectations. The first is rust: Ben hasn't played significant minutes even in exhibitions, and he's playing in his first game of the season with a team that's coming off a bye week. Rust can translate into turnovers, and that can quickly become Cleveland points, as well as missed Steelers opportunities.

The second is Colt McCoy, the rookie quarterback for the Browns. At Texas, he won more games than any NCAA college quarterback ever. With the Browns he is an unknown quantity, and the unknown is not what defenses like. He could get them off balance and out of rhythm by being better than they expect and above all, unpredictable.

So on paper the Steelers should win in a blowout. But if Ben and the Steelers offense aren't sharp early in the game and don't score much, and Colt McCoy gets hot later in the game, then things could be a little too interesting.

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