Coach Mike Tomlin and his Pittsburgh Steelers were on a roll as they made their way to an 11-0 record. Their attempt to replicate the 2007 New England Patriots team did not go as planned as the Steelers conceded 3 consecutive defeats. But they recovered strong and still went on to win the AFC North.
They were beaten by divisional rivals, Cleveland Browns, by a 22-24 margin in Week 17. In doing so, Baker Mayfield helped the Browns make the NFL Playoffs for the first time in 18 years.
Here’s a detailed look at both teams, along with injury updates and NFL Wild Card Round predictions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a fully fit squad to play with ahead of Sunday’s playoff game against the Browns. The home team will be hungry for a win as they fight for a spot in the Divisional Round.
QB Ben Roethlisberger will return to the lineup after sitting out the Week 17 loss. He looks to be in peak fitness after recovering from his elbow injury in 2019.
Big Ben will get support on the offensive front in the form of TE Eric Ebron, RB James Conner, and rookie WR Chase Claypool. The Steelers will need to put in a strong shift on a defensive front as they continue to dream about the Super Bowl Trophy.
Baker Mayfield deserves plaudits for leading the Browns to the NFL Playoffs for the first time since 2002. But he is yet to be tested in post-season as he gears up to complete another career milestone.
But he will need help from his star-studded cast, including WR Jarvis Landry and DE Myles Garrett to have a deep playoff run. HC Kevin Stefanski has done a brilliant job in Cleveland thus far, but the recent COVID-19 outbreak within the organization is causing him all sorts of problems at the moment.
As of Friday, the Browns have 8 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: G Joel Bitonio, TE Harrison Bryant, S Ronnie Harrison Jr., WR KhaDarel Hodge, CB Kevin Johnson, S Jovante Moffatt, LB Malcolm Smith, and CB Denzel Ward.
Coach Stefanski refused to speculate whether any of the players would be cleared in time for today’s game at the Heinz Field.
T Jack Conklin – Knee
DE Myles Garrett – Shoulder
CB Terrance Mitchell – NIR
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones – Concussion
DT Sheldon Richardson – Neck
CB M.J. Stewart – Calf
G Wyatt Teller – Ankle
We’re going to pick the Big Ben-led Pittsburgh to emerge triumphant on Sunday. Coach Tomlin’s boys were at their dominant best in the league this year, but they will need another strong overall display to silence a hurting Browns outfit.
The visitors will be missing some key players due to NFL COVID-19 protocols. But ‘Golden Boy’ Baker Mayfield could have a trick or two up his sleeve. Make sure you tune in.