Tale Of The Tape: Cleveland Browns At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackThe lowly Browns attracted a lot of attention during training camp as a result of the duel for the starting quarterback position between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Neither quarterback distinguished himself during the summer, and that was a disappointment to the coaching staff. Hoyer appeared to play with some confidence before getting hurt last year, but Manziel is expected to take over this season.Ben Roethlisberger appears to be under significant pressure this season because the Steelers are no longer the defensive juggernaut that could shut down opponents. If they are going to do anything of significance this season, Roethlisberger must stay healthy, show touch on his short- and medium-range passes and demonstrate some consistency.
- OffenseThe Browns have to put a balanced attack on the field to have any chance of success. Ben Tate is a capable running back who can take advantage of missed tackles and small openings to provide a credible ground game. Former Cowboy Miles Austin should be able to get open, and tight end Jordan Cameron (80 receptions in 2013) has proven hands.Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount made headlines for the wrong reasons in training camp, but they should give head coach Mike Tomlin a credible running game if they can stay clean. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is coming off a breakout season in which he caught 110 passes last year, while tight end Heath Miller can make the clutch catch when the game is on the line.
- DefenseThe Browns may have one of the most underrated defenses in the AFC this season. While they don’t have a lot of big names, the additions of inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Donte Whitner will give this unit a nasty edge and physical presence that they did not have last year. Outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are athletic and can get after the quarterback.The Steelers are hoping for some improvement in the run defense after ranking 18th in that category a year ago. Defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Cam Thomas are expected to anchor the defensive line, and neither player is a proven commodity. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is a hard hitter who had 126 tackles last year. Strong safety Troy Polamalu lacks consistency at this point in his career.
- Special TeamsThe Browns could get a lift from Travis Benjamin, who has more than enough speed to make a difference as a return specialist. Billy Cundiff is an average placekicker (21-of-26 on FG attempts), and the same can be said about punter Spencer Lanning, who averaged 43.8 yards last season.The Steelers know what they are getting in placekicker Shaun Suisham. He has proved to be a steady performer who can kick successfully in the wind by making 30-of-32 FG attempts last season. Tomlin is hoping Brad Wing can upgrade the team’s punting.
The Steelers are a long way from being a dominant team, but they should have more than enough to handle the Browns in the opener. Cleveland’s inability to build a cohesive offense will cost them in this game and throughout the season. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports