Unlikely and fleeting because it shall be, there is aloof hope for the Browns to salvage their season of disappointment.
Unforeseen because it might perchance most likely perchance most likely well had been a month ago, there is now very life like hope for the Steelers to be playing in video games that matter when the season hits its stretch.
An age-worn rivalry renewed, AFC North adversaries the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) and Cleveland Browns (3-6) collide on Thursday Evening Football at 8:20 p.m. ET from Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium in a showdown airing stay on FOX and the NFL Network.
Pittsburgh has claimed seven of the last eight in the rivalry, the single blemish a tie to inaugurate last season. Things have modified mightily for the reason that teams began last 12 months.
Cleveland is aloof rife with stars, nonetheless in the center of a season having fallen far short of expectations, the Browns are clinging to hope and coming off a discontinuance accumulate in opposition to the Payments.
Meanwhile, the Steelers chanced on themselves mired in a equally stifling inaugurate up to the season, nonetheless have lunge off four consecutive victories and preserve the the last AFC playoff assign of residing in the standings.
Two archrivals coming off wins, loads of colossal names and seasons to assign. Storylines are in abundance because the lights scoot on in Cleveland.
Right here are four things to glimpse for:
Baker Mayfield and the thriller of the Browns offense
In a season marked by stumbles, Baker Mayfield is coming off arguably his simplest stoop of 2019.
His 68.42 completion rate and 102.7 quarterback rating were highs for the season as he threw for 238 yards, two touchdowns (furthermore a head-shaking season high) and no interceptions. The no interceptions are specifically stare-opening because it is the 2d sport in a row Mayfield didn’t throw a take dangle of following as a minimum one in every of his preliminary seven video games.
In the Browns’ 19-16 accumulate over the Payments, the offense definitely didn’t sparkle, nonetheless wins are genuinely all that matter — specifically for the Browns, who’re playing for a miraculous postseason lunge, saved jobs and relevance all in the identical.
If Mayfield’s play remains popular — it doesn’t want to be spectacular with the surrounding ability — the Browns’ offense could most likely perchance most likely well as a minimum mediate about the prospective so many prognosticated.
Other than for some fumbling troubles, Cleave Chubb has persevered his ascent into the hierarchy of NFL working backs and on Thursday night, he could most likely perchance most likely well change into the most necessary Browns motivate since Peyton Hills in 2010 to speed for 1,000 yards. His 919 yards (third in the NFL) lead the AFC. A season ago, he carried out four yards frightened of the 1,000-yard keep.
Whereas there’s been noteworthy ballyhoo about getting Odell Beckham extra involving — a storyline that changed into it sounds as if traded with him from New York — OBJ’s Seventy 9 targets produce lead the group and his 44 catches for 632 yards are every 2d on the group in the motivate of Jarvis Landry. Wanting into the numbers, one could most likely perchance most likely argue, it is far now not about getting Beckham or Landry the ball, it is about getting all people else involving. The No. 3 receiver on the group is Chubb with 27 catches. After that it is Dontrell Hilliard with 11 grabs. Landry and Beckham have 77 and Seventy 9 targets, respectively. Other than for Chubb (36 targets), nobody has emerged as a substitute.
Because the wretchedness remains as to what’s going unpleasant with the Browns offense and why Beckham is now not extra involving, perchance the lawful ask is why are now not others extra involving?
On Thursday, Baker and the boys shall be going via a Steelers protection brimming with a host of playmakers. Because the Steelers protection gets colossal performs from apparently all people involving, the Browns offense could most likely perchance most likely well strive to provide the identical.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and the ascent of the Steelers protection
Having arrived in the Steelers starting lineup via commerce with the Dolphins in Week 3, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s presence has considered Pittsburgh scoot 5-2 with him on the group as he is tallied 5 interceptions, eight passes defended and 34 tackles. Those 5 picks are tied for the league-high.
Pittsburgh’s protection allowed 33 and 28 aspects in its first two video games, respectively — both losses without Fitzpatrick. Since then, the Steelers haven’t allowed bigger than 26 aspects and that changed into staunch as soon as in opposition to the high-flying Ravens. Fitzpatrick, mercurial organising himself as a authorized for defensive player of the 12 months, has made a extensive and instantaneous impact.
In the Steelers’ 17-12 accumulate over the Rams on Sunday, it changed into Fitzpatrick’s 43-yard fumble return for six which stood because the sport-successful rating. It changed into the most up-to-date evidence equipped of staunch how things have modified since Fitzpatrick joined the fray, with Pittsburgh’s protection havign long previous from allowing 30.5 aspects per sport and 445 yards to 17.1 and 300.
Fitzpatrick is another frail first-rounder that has the Steelers clicking esteem a protection on the upward thrust. In total, the Metal City protection boasts eight frail first-spherical picks and it is definitely initiating to play up to its capacity.
The likes of Fitzpatrick, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, T.J. Watt and extra are mercurial turning this first-spherical club staunch into a fearsome one.
Some stellar Cleveland defenders lustrous despite defeats
Cleveland’s protection as a whole has been modest, rating 17th in the NFL in total protection, having been extensive in opposition to the pass (seventh) and terrible versus the lunge (Twenty seventh).
It’s overshadowed some outstanding person efforts, even when.
With 10.0 sacks (tied for third in NFL), 11 tackles for loss (tied for fourth) and 15 quarterback hits (tied for tenth), Garrett is wreaking havoc as expected and would most likely be drawing extra acclaim if group wins were following his person production.
There is furthermore linebacker Joe Schobert, who most likely wouldn’t contrivance extra acclaim even when the Browns were successful. Schobert’s the epitome of a lunch-gentle man, playing loud and talking low. His 82 tackles are tied for tops in the AFC with Tennessee’s Rashaan Evans.
The fourth-rounder turned Pro Bowler hasn’t disregarded a defensive snap this season.
Secure or lose, Schobert and Garrett are consistently producing for the Browns.
Next males up leading Pittsburgh wins
Because the waiting sport for JuJu Smith-Schuster continues, the talented wideout has blended to make staunch six catches for 60 yards across the last two video games – which contrivance following his first and only 100-yard sport of the season in Week 8 in opposition to the lowly Dolphins.
Meanwhile, James Washington has hauled in 10 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in that identical span, setting season highs with four catches for 69 yards in Week 9 in opposition to the Colts forward of bettering on his season bests with six receptions for 90 yards in opposition to the Rams. Among wideouts, Washington has been the scoot-to staunch via the last two video games. A preseason standout, Washington has patiently waited and is now paying dividends in some unspecified time in the future of a season whereby the Steelers are successful without the identical outdated suspects — as a minimum on offense, anyway.
Running motivate Jaylen Samuel has furthermore stepped up in the passing sport. James Conner is due motivate and he burned the Browns last season with four touchdowns and 281 yards on the bottom over two tilts versus Cleveland. But the backups, even when it hasn’t exactly been pretty, have gotten the job carried out in a co-starring just in red meat up of the protection.
Though infrequently spectacular, quarterback Mason Rudolph has been efficient and Pittsburgh is 4-2 with him as starter.
Critically there changed into no Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell at season’s starting. Now there’s no Ben Roethlisberger, Conner has been a ask keep and Smith-Schuster has struggled. But Rudolph, Samuel and Washington are getting it carried out and the Steelers have chanced on their race — as a minimum in relation to wins. Thursday could most likely perchance most likely well be the most up-to-date case whereby the next Steelers up step up.