Now now not going and fleeting as it’d be, there is composed hope for the Browns to salvage their season of disappointment.
Unforeseen as it can perchance well perchance properly were a month ago, there is now very sensible hope for the Steelers to be playing in games that matter when the season hits its stretch.
An age-passe contention renewed, AFC North adversaries the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) and Cleveland Browns (3-6) collide on Thursday Night time Football at 8:20 p.m. ET from Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium in a showdown airing are living on FOX and the NFL Community.
Pittsburgh has claimed seven of the final eight within the contention, the supreme blemish a tie to originate final season. Things have modified mightily since the groups started final twelve months.
Cleveland is composed rife with stars, however within the course of a season having fallen a ways wanting expectations, the Browns are clinging to hope and coming off a terminate select against the Funds.
In the intervening time, the Steelers came across themselves mired in a equally stifling originate to the season, however have tear off four consecutive victories and withhold the the final AFC playoff set up within the standings.
Two archrivals coming off wins, a great deal of huge names and seasons to save. Storylines are in abundance because the lights fling on in Cleveland.
Here are four issues to appear for for:
Baker Mayfield and the mystery of the Browns offense
In a season marked by stumbles, Baker Mayfield is coming off arguably his easiest outing 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 (also a head-shaking season high) and no interceptions. The no interceptions are particularly scrutinize-opening as it’s the second game in a row Mayfield did now not throw a contain following a minimal of 1 of his preliminary seven games.
In the Browns’ 19-16 select over the Funds, the offense no doubt did now not sparkle, however wins are if truth be told all that matter — particularly for the Browns, who’re playing for a miraculous postseason tear, saved jobs and relevance all within the the same.
If Mayfield’s play stays accurate — it doesn’t must be spectacular with the surrounding talent — the Browns’ offense could perchance well properly a minimal of watch the possible so many prognosticated.
Except for some fumbling troubles, Cut Chubb has persisted his ascent into the hierarchy of NFL operating backs and on Thursday evening, he could perchance well perchance properly change into the fundamental Browns aid since Peyton Hills in 2010 to tear for 1,000 yards. His 919 yards (third within the NFL) lead the AFC. A season ago, he executed four yards terrorized of the 1,000-yard imprint.
While there could be been a lot ballyhoo about getting Odell Beckham extra inspiring — a storyline that used to be it appears traded with him from Unusual York — OBJ’s seventy nine targets model lead the team and his 44 catches for 632 yards are every second on the team within the aid of Jarvis Landry. Having a look for into the numbers, one could perchance well perchance argue, it’s no longer about getting Beckham or Landry the ball, it’s about getting all people else inspiring. The No. 3 receiver on the team is Chubb with 27 catches. After that it’s Dontrell Hilliard with 11 grabs. Landry and Beckham have 77 and seventy nine targets, respectively. Except for Chubb (36 targets), nobody has emerged as an different.
Because the jam stays as to what goes inferior with the Browns offense and why Beckham is no longer if truth be told extra inspiring, perchance the steady query is why are no longer others extra inspiring?
On Thursday, Baker and the boys will likely be facing a Steelers defense brimming with a host of playmakers. Because the Steelers defense will get huge plays from reputedly all people inspiring, the Browns offense could perchance well properly strive to model the the same.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and the ascent of the Steelers defense
Having arrived within the Steelers starting lineup by job of exchange with the Dolphins in Week 3, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s presence has seen Pittsburgh fling 5-2 with him on the team as he is tallied 5 interceptions, eight passes defended and 34 tackles. These 5 picks are tied for the league-high.
Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 33 and 28 parts in its first two games, respectively — both losses without Fitzpatrick. Since then, the Steelers have not allowed bigger than 26 parts and that used to be correct as soon as against the high-flying Ravens. Fitzpatrick, mercurial setting up himself as a fave for defensive participant of the twelve months, has made an mountainous and immediate influence.
In the Steelers’ 17-12 select over the Rams on Sunday, it used to be Fitzpatrick’s 43-yard fumble return for six which stood because the game-worthwhile rating. It used to be the latest proof offered of correct how issues have modified since Fitzpatrick joined the fray, with Pittsburgh’s defense havign long past from permitting 30.5 parts per game and 445 yards to 17.1 and 300.
Fitzpatrick is any other former first-rounder that has the Steelers clicking treasure a defense on the upward push. In full, the Metallic City defense boasts eight former first-round picks and it’s no doubt initiating to play as a lot as its possible.
The likes of Fitzpatrick, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, T.J. Watt and extra are mercurial turning this fundamental-round membership into a fearsome one.
Some stellar Cleveland defenders luminous despite defeats
Cleveland’s defense as a whole has been modest, ranking 17th within the NFL in full defense, having been extensive against the pass (seventh) and dreadful versus the tear (Twenty seventh).
It’s overshadowed some excellent particular person efforts, though.
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 possible be drawing extra acclaim if team wins were following his particular person production.
There’s also linebacker Joe Schobert, who possible would no longer plot extra acclaim even supposing the Browns were worthwhile. Schobert’s the epitome of a lunch-faded man, playing loud and talking low. His 82 tackles are tied for tops within the AFC with Tennessee’s Rashaan Evans.
The fourth-rounder turned Expert Bowler hasn’t neglected a defensive snap this season.
Maintain or lose, Schobert and Garrett are repeatedly producing for the Browns.
Subsequent men up main Pittsburgh wins
Because the ready game for JuJu Smith-Schuster continues, the talented wideout has mixed to invent correct six catches for 60 yards across the final two games – which design following his first and handiest 100-yard game of the season in Week 8 against the lowly Dolphins.
In the intervening time, 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 against the Colts outdated to improving on his season bests with six receptions for 90 yards against the Rams. Among wideouts, Washington has been the fling-to over the final two games. A preseason standout, Washington has patiently waited and is now paying dividends all the design thru a season in which the Steelers are worthwhile without the stylish suspects — a minimal of on offense, anyway.
Operating aid Jaylen Samuel has also stepped up within the passing game. James Conner is due aid and he burned the Browns final season with four touchdowns and 281 yards on the floor over two tilts versus Cleveland. However the backups, though it hasn’t exactly been somewhat, have bought the job executed in a co-starring role in enhance of the defense.
Even though rarely spectacular, quarterback Mason Rudolph has been efficient and Pittsburgh is suddenly 4-2 with him as starter.
Notably there used to be no Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell at season’s starting. Now there is now not any Ben Roethlisberger, Conner has been a question imprint and Smith-Schuster has struggled. But Rudolph, Samuel and Washington are getting it executed and the Steelers have came across their lumber — a minimal of in terms of wins. Thursday could perchance well perchance be the latest case in which the subsequent Steelers up step up.