This week you are going to see me do something that I don’t do very often; I am going give kudos to the Cleveland Browns.
Going into this season, I had week 2 circled as one of the most important weeks of the Steelers’ season. The upstart Cleveland Browns are loaded with young talent, and they made some bold moves during the offseason that made them the clearest threat to the Steelers’ supremacy in the AFC North.
What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the Browns weren’t considered to be much of a threat to anybody. They had no offense, no defense, and head coach Romeo Crennel was assumed to be a lame duck who would be fired at the end of the season. But that was then, and this is now.
After surprising everyone by going 10-6 last year and tying the Steelers for the best record in the AFC North, the Browns got even better during the offseason. The Browns didn’t get a lot of help from the draft because they didn’t pick until the 4th round. Nevertheless, they got a few players who will definitely have an impact on the team in the future. Inside linebacker Beau Bell would have been a 1st round pick if he hadn’t injured his knee during the first day of Senior Bowl practices. The knee didn’t heal before the Combine, and Bell ran a very slow 4.9, despite running much faster times during his junior year. Ahthyba Rubin is a massive NT who seems to be tailor-made for the AFC North where huge NT’s seem to be the norm. But the biggest off-season improvements came via free agency and trades. Wide receiver Donte Stallworth was added to the already dangerous Browns receiving unit. Derek Anderson now has another weapon to go along with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. Defensive linemen Corey Wlliams and Shun Rogers will definitely help the Browns defense.
Having performed well last season, and after making bold changes in the offseason, many predicted the Browns would actually win the AFC North this year. Moreover, the NFL took notice of the Browns and scheduled them for five primetime games this season, an unheard of number for a team that didn’t even reach the playoffs last year. Moreover, Romeo Crennel was given a contract extension, as was General Manager Phil Savage and Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski. The future was bright and expectations were high in Cleveland.
And then Week 1 happened. The Browns were totally dominated by the Dallas Cowboys, losing 28-10. More telling than the final score was the fact that the Browns were held to 205 net yards, compared to 487 yards for the Cowboys. The Cowboys dominated time of possession, and outgained the Browns 168 yards to 91 yards on the ground. Derek Anderson passed for only 114 yards, and Braylon Edwards managed only 2 receptions for 14 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Browns defense applied little pressure, got no sacks, and Cowboys QB Tony Romo seemed to have hours to throw each of his passes. Perhaps the NFL should reconsider some of those primetime games they’ve scheduled the Browns for.
This week, I am predicting that the Steelers will extend their 9 game winning streak over the Brown to 10 consecutive wins. If memory serves me correctly, the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers since 1951. However, my math might be wrong, and maybe it only SEEMS like the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers since 1951.
If things go as expected, the Steelers will start the 2008 season 2-0, and the Browns will leave the game with a record of 0-2.