BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – For the second straight year it looks like the Browns will be tasked with beating the Steelers’ backups Sunday in Pittsburgh to end the season.
Last year Cleveland lost the Week 17 finale 27-24 in overtime after taking a 14-0 lead with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and company getting the afternoon off. It appears that will be the case once again at Heinz Field on New Years eve.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t comment this week when asked about his plans for the game but based on their Friday injury report submitted to the league, it appears the Browns are going to get a break and thus some hope they’ll be able to win the final to avoid the infamy of an 0-16 season.
“They are a good football team. We expect the best from the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. “We won’t know until we are there. As I told our players, we are not worried about any of that. This is the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns. We have to go play extremely well ourselves to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Jackson said he has not spoken to his team about avoiding 0-16 and no one in his locker room seems all that worried about such dubious history, but Jackson does plan to deliver the final speech of the season Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
“Nobody really cares about the record,” rookie safety Jabrill Peppers said Friday. “It is what it is. Everyone makes a big deal out of it. We know what our record is. It is what it is, man. We’re not executing. That’s the name of the game, gotta execute.”
Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell did not practice on Friday and their absence was “not injury related” according to the team injury report. Defensive end Cameron Heywood, who didn’t practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday was a full participant on Friday according to the team.
Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett would be disappointed if Roethlisberger doesn’t play considering that after he was drafted No. 1 overall in April he mentioned that he couldn’t wait to sack the Steelers’ QB.
“I would. I have been waiting for my chance,” Garrett said. “I think they probably think of it as a smart move to probably sit him and rest him for the playoffs, but I would really like to go and get my chance to play against him, seeing as he is an elite quarterback and has been doing it for so long and so well. We will see.”
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has already been ruled out as he continues to recover from a calf injury suffered a few weeks ago.
The Last Time – The last time the Browns won in Pittsburgh was Oct. 5, 2003 – a 33-13 thumping. The Steelers have responded by winning 25 of the last 28 meetings between the teams.
Cleveland’s last victory over the Steelers came in Cleveland Oct. 12, 2014 – a 31-10 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Fine Rescinded – Peppers said that he won the appeal of a $24,000 fine for a personal foul penalty called when he hit Bengals receiver Josh Malone late in the fourth quarter of a Nov. 26th loss in Cincinnati.
Vitale Out – Fullback Danny Vitale has been ruled out Sunday after suffering a groin injury in the first quarter of last week’s loss in Chicago.
Vitale told 92.3 The Fan on Friday that the injury occurred on the fifth offensive play of the afternoon when he slipped while trying to gain leverage for a block. He didn’t tear a muscle so he’s expecting a full recovery without surgery.
Marquez Williams, selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by Jacksonville, was elevated from the practice squad Friday to take Vitale’s place in the backfield.
Injury Report – OUT: FB Danny Vitale (groin); QUESTIONABLE: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), RB Matthew Dayes (knee), CB Jamar Taylor (foot), CB Derron Smith (hip); EXPECTED TO PLAY: WR Sammie Coates (shoulder), RB Isaiah Crowell (shoulder/ribs), RB Duke Johnson (shoulder), C JC Tretter (knee), LB Josh Keyes (wrist), DT Caleb Brantley (neck).