The Cleveland Browns Week 17 game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is a matchup between two desperate teams. The Browns fell to 7-8, leaving their playoff hopes are clinging to life after sustaining a tough loss to the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day. In the loss, quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a career-high four interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers are also in dire straits. They are 7-7-1, needing to win out and get help to make the playoffs.
Both teams desperately need this game, but only one will win while the other falls from postseason contention. Here are my Cleveland Browns Week 17 bold predictions.
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Browns Week 17 Predictions vs Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Browns defense returns to form, dominates the Steelers offense
The Cleveland Browns have had a top-10 defense for most of the season. Injuries and COVID-19 have made things very difficult on the Browns, but things are trending up for Cleveland. On Thursday, the Browns activated DT Jordan Elliott, CB Greg Newsome, C JC Tretter and K Chase McLaughlin from the COVID-19 reserve list.
All Pro Myles Garrett was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice with a groin injury, but he is expected to play. Jadeveon Clowney is also expected to suit up Monday night after missing the last two games on the COVID-19 reserve list.
#Browns getting several key guys back off the COVID list:
DE Jadeveon Clowney
G Drew Forbes
S Ronnie Harrison Jr.
CB Troy Hill
RB Kareem Hunt
DT Malik McDowell
T Jedrick Wills Jr.
LB Mack Wilson
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 27, 2021
It will likely be the healthiest the Browns defense has been in many weeks. Pittsburgh is headed in the other direction.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having one of the worst years of his career in 2021. Age and injuries are finally catching up to the future Hall of Fame QB. The Steelers offense has struggled mightily, being forced to lean on rookie running back Najee Harris.
Myles Garrett already has 15 sacks on the season and I think he’ll pick up another one Monday.
3. Nick Chubb and Browns ground game runs wild
Browns tailbacks Nick Chubb, D’Ernest Johnson and possibly Kareem Hunt should be licking their chops ahead of this matchup. On Friday, the Steelers placed two critical defensive players on the league’s COVID-19 reserve list.
Wormley, Schobert latest to Steelers COVID list https://t.co/xOtYILH7c8 pic.twitter.com/19FYVNjrAM
— Ron Bohning (@RonBohning) December 31, 2021
The Browns already boast one of the league’s most potent rushing games. They average 145 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, in two of the last three weeks, Pittsburgh’s defense has been gashed. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook came off the COVID list and rushed for over 200 yards three weeks ago.
Cleveland got more good news Friday. Kareem Hunt, who was cleared from the COVID-19 protocols earlier in the week, practiced on a limited basis Friday. Hunt adds a whole new element to the Browns offense. He is one of the bigger game breakers in the league. Prior to his injury early in the season, Hunt was scoring at will in this offense.
I would fully expect Chubb, Hunt and potentially D’Ernest Johnson to run wild on the depleted Steelers defense.
2. Baker Mayfield turns in one of his best performances of the year
Baker Mayfield has been pretty awful for well over a month now. On Monday night, I think he turns in one of his better performances this year. Against the Packers, Cleveland ran for over 200 yards. Normally that would make things much easier on the quarterback. But the Packers secondary is legit.
Pittsburgh is much more beatable through the air. Browns receiver Jarvis Landry is another week removed from contracting COVID-19 and other injuries. The offense should be able to move the ball up and down the field on the Steelers Monday night. That will lead to Baker Mayfield throwing a couple of touchdowns.
1. Cleveland gives Ben Roethlisberger tough home send off, win going away
Ben Roethlisberger might retire at the end of this season. That would make Monday night his final home start of his career. It’s only fitting that it would be against the Cleveland Browns. During his Hall of Fame career, Roethlisberger has started 29 games against the Browns. He is 25-3-1 in those games.
Don’t for a second think that Cleveland fans and players are not aware of that level of domination.
Cleveland Browns reporter Noah Weiskopf tweeted out Jadeveon Clowney’s response to playing Roethlisberger in his final home game.
Jadeveon Clowney on Big Ben’s final home game in Pittsburgh: “Let’s send him out the right way.”#Browns
— Noah Weiskopf (@BrownsWithNoah) December 31, 2021
“Let’s send him out the right way,” said Clowney. I don’t think he meant happy and with a win. Even with a win, it’s unlikely Cleveland makes the playoffs. This game is going to be about much more than that. Roethlisberger wants to go out a certain way. The Browns want to vent almost two decades of frustration losing to him and take it out on the field. Everything says they will get exactly what they want.