CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns kick off their 19th season since re-joining the NFL as an expansion club in 1999 against their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last Minute Switches – One of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries has been spiced up by recent events after the Browns cut two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, who signed with Steelers hours later. Also, the two teams completed a trade last week, with Cleveland acquiring speedy receiver Sammie Coates from Pittsburgh. Haden, who spent seven seasons with Cleveland, said he didn’t sign with the rival Steelers to spite the Browns but for a chance to finally make playoffs.
One-Sided Rivalry – Steelers are 31-6 vs. Browns since 1999 and have won eight of the last nine between the two teams.
Bell’s Back – Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell recently ended his summer-long holdout and signed the franchise tag. The multi-talented Bell averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game in 2016 and became the first player in history to average more than 100 yards rushing, 50 receiving in single season. Coach Mike Tomlin said Bell’s week of practice would determine his workload vs. Browns.
Owned By Big Ben – Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is 20-2 in his career against the Browns. Both losses came in Cleveland. Roethlisberger has 49 career 300-yard games in the regular season. Only eight QBs have reached 50-game plateau and he needs 190 yards to pass Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (47,003) for ninth place on the all-time career list.
What Can Brown Do For You- Antonio Brown has 632 receptions in his first seven seasons. Only Colts’ wideout Marvin Harrison (665) had more.
Injury Bug – Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett didn’t even make it to the opener, suffering a high ankle sprain in practice Wednesday. The No. 1 overall pick is expected to miss several games.
Holy Kizer – Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer will be 27th different starter for Browns since ’99 and the 15th different opening day starter for the franchise over that same span. Like Roethlisberger, Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, grew up in northwest Ohio and is familiar with the heated Steelers-Browns rivalry, calling it “as blue collar as it gets.”
Perfect Preseason – The Browns went 4-0 in preseason for first time since 1986 and fourth overall. Browns “Iron Man” T Joe Thomas enters season having played 9,934 consecutive snaps. He’s one of only five players to make 10 straight Pro Bowls.
Multitask Man – Rookie safety Jabrill Peppers, selected 25th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, will also handle punt and kick-return duties this season for the Browns. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plans to move Peppers around within his defense lining him up in the box as well as dropping him in coverage.
Rankings – AP PRO32: Steelers No. 4, Browns No. 31; CBS Sports: Steelers No. 4, Browns 29
The Last Time – Jan. 1, 2017: Steelers beat Browns 27-24 in overtime
Series History – Overall Steelers lead 72-58 and Pittsburgh is 31-6 against Cleveland since 1999
Projected Starters – OFFENSE: WR Corey Coleman, LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Shon Coleman, TE Randall Telfer, WR Kenny Britt, QB DeShone Kizer, RB Isaiah Crowell, FB Danny Vitale.
DEFENSE: DE Carl Nassib, DT Trevon Coley, DT Danny Shelton, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WILL Christian Kirksey, MIKE Joe Schobert, SAM Jamie Collins, CB Jason McCourty, CB Jamar Taylor, S Jabrill Peppers, S Derrick Kindred.
Inactives – QB Cody Kessler, WR Reggie Davis, OL Marcus Martin, OL Zach Banner, DL Myles Garrett, DL T.Y. McGill, DL Caleb Brantley
Broadcast Information – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX, 850 AM and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network; TV: WOIO Cleveland 19 (CBS)
Kickoff – 1:03 p.m. – FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Prediction – Steelers 24, Browns 13
Season Prediction – Browns 4-12, Steelers 11-5 and the AFC runner-up
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)