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Browns vs Steelers – Week 1 – Defend Cleveland Preview

Browns vs Steelers - Week 1 - 2014


“Brady said he was going to play until he sucked. That’s a pretty good line…Yeah, right until you suck. I think that’s a pretty good rule right there.”
– Peyton Manning


“I’d rather devote my fall to the NBA Pre-Season Pass than sit through another shitty Browns season.” – Greg Miller 




According to Tom Brady and Manning’s “being good to play” rule, the Cleveland Browns should have quit long ago. Instead, we enter the 15th season of the “new era Browns” with little to nothing to show for it except year after year of losing seasons and lengthy concerns with ourselves as fans in how and why we should even care anymore. But we do care. Greatly. Against all odds. And as yet another new regime takes over with a new wrinkle of the extra added hype of a #22 pick that most fans and media have acted as if he was the #1 overall, and is absolutely certain he’s to be the savior for our much maligned football team, apparently the end of our devotion and ever hopeful delusions have no end in sight whatsoever.

Within all this failure and smashed dreams of greatness, however, a brutal game has been birthed amongst the Defend Cleveland crew, a game we think all Browns fans can truly enjoy. It’s the, “What would you rather do than watch another shitty Browns season?” game, where you come up with the most outrageous things you would rather do than sit through another year of the same ol’ Browns. Things like, “I’d rather sit through a 72 hour loop of Draft Day strapped to a chair with my eyes pried open like Clockwork Orange than sit through another shitty Browns season.” Or, “I’d rather go on The Biggest Loser and lose than sit through another shitty Browns season.” Or, “I’d rather go to rehab meetings all year with Josh Gordon than sit through another shitty Browns season.”

Pretty fun, right?

Sure it won’t save your season of hope or keep you from already pining for next year’s Draft, but it’s really simple to play and the entertainment is endless. Well, up until the point where someone inevitably crosses the line and says they’d rather root for the Ravens or Steelers. Even with the most arbitrary of hypothetical games, there has to be some rules.

With that in mind, and the notion that I would rather go partying with Jim Irsay and let him drive than sit through another shitty Browns season…here’s your 2014, Week 1, Defend Cleveland preview of the Browns vs Steelers.


Matchups to Watch For


– Brian Hoyer starts, but c’mon, when will Johnny Cleveland be under center?! And let the week-by-week, play-by-play Cleveland Browns QB controversy truly get underway! Granted, with Browns games largely only airing regionally by CBS and not by The World Leader of all things Johnny Football Hype (aka ESPN), the outlandish rhetoric won’t be as bad as it would be if the Browns were regularly featured nationally. But it still is sure to be a focus each and every game. And why not? Though Hoyer has shown he might be a capable starter in the few games he started for the Browns last season, he’s far from anything resembling a proven commodity as an everyday starter, let alone a QB you’d peg as capable of leading a team to the playoffs.

The question of when, not if, Johnny gets the job will clearly be the burning front page headlines with regards to this team all year. That is unless Hometown Hoyer, not even a year removed from an ACL tear, can peerlessly guide this team which has a new coach and new complex offensive scheme, no depth at the O-line, Josh Gordon working his best Kenny Powers impersonation shilling cars instead of setting NFL receiving records, an Austin Miles 5 years past his prime, and a totally unproven running game…you have to figure the safest bet all year is a rough go of lay ahead for no matter who’s at quarterback.

Johnny is exciting though, is clearly the fan favorite, should have the higher ceiling, and brings an advantage with his athleticism and play making ability that Hoyer simply doesn’t offer. Will it be enough for him to start sooner rather than later? Maybe. But my thinking in this goes counter the popular assumption that Manziel by Week 5 will be the starter. Barring injury, I just don’t see it. I do believe, much like Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stated a few days ago, that Johnny Cleveland will absolutely be apart of the Browns offense in some capacity whether he starts or not.

Bottom line, a 2 quarterback system maybe akin to having no quarterback at all, but each opponent of the Browns will have to plan for both QBs which is to say they have to account for something extra that could be a concern. The threat of triple read options, roll outs and deception aplenty, and all signs points to at least a handful of plays for Johnny Football this week and every week. If utilizing him in this manner turns out highly successful, then you can expect Manziel to be given the keys. In the meantime, this team is mostly Hoyer’s. Mostly.


– Will the Browns Running Game Save the Browns Passing Game and Defense? Usually for this section of the Weekly Preview we focus on the matchups the opposing team will present on the field of play, but given it’s Week 1 and it’s in Pittsburgh, a place where the Steelers haven’t lost to the Browns in 10 years and counting, let’s just focus on the unsettled aspects of this Browns offense beyond the QB position. A strong downfield passing game appears totally out the question, as does any real passing threat at all for that matter, so the bigger question has to be: Can the Browns effectively control the ball on the ground?

Ben Tate if he can stay healthy and hold onto the ball seems a perfect fit for Shanahan’s system, as do rookies Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell. Plus the Shanahan zone blocking schemes for the Browns O-line almost looks ideal. Of course what works on paper unfortunately doesn’t always translate. And more importantly, when it comes to the Browns, literally nothing ever works as it seemingly would anywhere else. Which enlarge is why I would rather build up my frequent flier miles by flying back and forth to Malaysia than sit through another shitty Browns season.

If, and this is a huge IF, the Browns do effectively move the ball on the ground, it would be the real difference necessary for them to have any success. You sure can’t count on a Gordon-less passing game which otherwise features a collection of NFL castaways at wide receiver to be the difference. And even if the team’s base identity does end up being that of an elite Coach Pettine pressure the QB defense, if his offense can’t sustain drives and stay on the field, there’s no chance any defense can excel after having to be on the field for near 40 minutes every game.

The only chance in setting up whatever their passing game is going to end up being is via a strong running attack. They seem to have the parts and scheme necessary, but will it be enough? Probably not this season, but outside of Manziel immediately playing like he did at A&M, lighting it up and regularly  pulling miracles from his much smaller than the average NFL QB ass… running the ball is the way to go. And with a Steelers team who ranked 25th against the run last year1, it’s a healthy ground attack that might be the best plan for the Browns this week regardless.




To give a full context of what I expect this season from the Browns, on Monday’s show I predicted a worst case scenario on the year of 4-12, a best case of 7-9, and I zeroed in on a final prediction of (and I stress this is still categorically optimistic) a 6-10 year. Will that be enough in it of itself to be excited about as fans? Hard to say yes, but it would be enough for this team to do what many consider as paramount in regards to sustained winning, and that is keeping the coaching staff in place to best build stability and structure. Whether you think Pettine will be good or you’re already screaming, “THE HORROR!”, this organization needs stability. Period. Even if it isn’t that good. As far as this season though, what I’ve basically outlined is if you’re looking at the Vegas line of 5.5 wins on the season? Take the over and immediately begin holding your breath.

Now, with a schedule that begins with Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh and doesn’t let up until the Bye some 3 weeks later, the game within the game of betting the line isn’t likely to favor the Cleveland Browns much this season. For Sunday this is definitely the case as the Browns open up at +6 to the Steelers. A line you can expect to only get larger up until the point of kickoff. And to be honest, I’m a little surprised it opened where it did. I would have guessed it in the 10 point range. As such, at 6 points (hell, even 10 points) I strongly advise you to bet against the Browns this week. Especially if your strongest of all allegiances is to straight cash, homey.

In a perfect world this would be a more fan friendly prediction to begin the year off but this isn’t a perfect world, it’s Cleveland. That said, though the Cleveland Browns again look likely to suck, and though I’d rather listen to you talk about YOUR fantasy team than sit through yet another shitty season, the Browns are forever our team. And with jokes and games aside, even against all odds and likelihoods, we’ll never quit on our allegiance and will always root for them to win. Particularly whenever they play the Ravens or Steelers.

Go Browns.

-Mike James

Listen every Friday to “Defend Cleveland Friday with Mike and Joe”  by clicking here, a weekly hour long Cleveland sports podcast companion to the DC Show that’s the best way to end you week, and the only way to begin your weekend.

Listen to last Monday’s “The Defend Cleveland Show” in its entirety by clicking here.

The DC Show with host Mike James airs live every Monday morning from 9am-11:30am on WRUW-FM 91.1 Cleveland, and streams world wide here.


  1. As per usual with these ratings and rankings each week in your Defend Cleveland Previews, all of them come via ProFootballFocus unless otherwise stated. []

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Posted by on Sep 4 2014. Filed under Featured, Show Reports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Browns vs Steelers – Week 1 – Defend Cleveland Preview”

  1. […] read the Defend Cleveland Preview of Week 1′s Browns vs Steelers, click here. To download this week’s episode of DCF with Mike and Joe, right click here and […]

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