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Browns Are Last Opponent For Steelers In 2015 Regular Season

By Christina Rivers

The Cleveland Browns are in a bit of a state of freefall as they enter their final regular season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 17. The Steelers, hoping to clinch a playoff berth, are coming off of a three-point 17-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. With a 3-12 season heading into their last game of the 2015 season, a lot of news surrounding the Browns organization surrounds quarterback Johnny Manziel and whether owner Jimmy Haslam will keep coach Mike Pettine or general manager Ray Farmer after Cleveland lost, 17-13, to a surging Kansas City Chiefs team – giving Pettine his 17th loss in the last 20 games.

The Browns spent most of their post-game talking on Monday, not about their hosting of the Steelers, but the future beyond what is already considered a lost season on Monday. Farmer has been placed on the hot seat for player acquisitions that may have called "suspect" and may be the fall-guy for an abysmal performance by this Cleveland team in 2015. Whether coach Pettine keeps his position is still up in the air. With all the negativity off of the playing field, it doesn't appear that Cleveland is even interested in fielding a team for their week 17 AFC North meeting with Pittsburgh.

Offense under Manziel not improved enough to win

The Browns have given Manziel the reins at quarterback, but it was his legs that kept the Cleveland offense in the game in week 16. After throwing just 13 completions, his negative passing mark is a black spot of doom. When he wasn't pressured, Manziel completed 12-of-24 passes for 125 yards and one interception but could not find the end zone. Manziel had an opportunity in the final two drives of the game to take the lead with throws of over 20 yards, but drops by his receivers and the interception forced Manziel to get outside of the pocket and run with the ball. If he'd had accuracy, Manziel might have pulled off one of the league's biggest upsets over a Chiefs team that has stormed to the forefront in recent weeks.

Defense good enough to stay in games

Cleveland's defense clamped down on the Chiefs by limiting Kansas City's Alex Smith from using his legs to get out of the pocket in the second half. In fact, the Browns held the Chiefs to just 58 total yards on 14 plays through the final two-quarters of the game, three first downs, and zero points. Browns linebacker Nate Orchard recorded a key sack on third down and recorded one interception on the day. Cornerback Tramon Williams regrouped after an earlier Travis Kelce touchdown pass. Barkevious Mingo had Smith in his sights for a sack late in the first half, but allowed Smith to break free and run for 29 yards to set up the Chiefs final touchdown. The pieces have been there, but they have not always worked at the same time week-in and week-out for the Browns, leading to inconsistency.

Question marks in players to watch

At this point, it isn't clear who the Browns will look to to carry them to success at home against the Steelers. The defense will be without linebacker Armonty Bryant and they had to cut safety De'Ante Saunders after a Christmas morning traffic stop that resulted in arrests for operation of a vehicle while intoxicated, the location of a gun, and the prescription drug Adderall in the vehicle. Saunders, who did not have a permit for the weapon, could face additional charges. Bryant may be facing league charges for possessing the drug without a prescription.

On offense, Pettine pointed to the play of lineman Cameron Erving. "I thought, as usual, he played with good effort, good energy," said Pettine. "He made some mistakes...he did give up some pressures in the pass game, which (Manziel) bailed him out on one or two of them, but I think overall, it was a step forward for Cam." Pettine also praised tight end Gary Barnidge who remains a legitimate receiving threat for Cleveland. Barnidge leads the team with 71 receptions for 977 yards and nine touchdowns.


The Steelers had an ugly performance against the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns have the opportunity to put the finishing touches on a season that has been a bit bipolar. Cleveland hasn't looked good in 2015, but after four games of pulling out all the stops in the end to win – Pittsburgh is in a must-win situation once again if they want to enter the post-season. Pittsburgh is favored to win, but surprisingly, not by much.

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on

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