NFL from the Sidelines

Blogs NFL from the Sidelines

O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Who I like, Steelers at Browns

September 8, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell stretches during a team practice at the NFL football team's training facility in Pittsburgh, on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. It was Bell's first workout with the team this season. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Death, taxes and the Steelers beating the Browns with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

OK, I might have added that last one to the three things guaranteed in life, but it’s only a slight exaggeration. Roethlisberger is 21-2 in games started against the Cleveland Browns, the best record of any quarterback in league history with at least 15 starts against an opponent.

That record is currently 10-2 in Cleveland. A win against the Browns on Sunday would make him the winningest quarterback in FirstEnergy Stadium history. That includes Cleveland quarterbacks.

Currently, he’s tied with Derek Anderson for the most wins there. Anderson spent four seasons with the Browns, starting 34 games.

It wouldn’t be a Browns game if they weren’t starting a new quarterback. This time, it’s rookie Deshone Kizer who will be making his first career start. That will make him the 27th quarterback to start a game for Cleveland since the Browns came back to the league in 1999.

Good thing they passed on Roethlisberger in the draft in 2004.

Cleveland hopes it’s finally got its man at quarterback and that could be the case. Kizer is a big, strong mobile quarterback with a good arm. And you’d better believe the Browns will test the left side of the Pittsburgh secondary deep.

That will be where former Browns star Joe Haden will line up with veteran safety Mike Mitchell as his help. Haden, never a burner to begin with, suffered through to injury-plagued seasons - and plenty of losing - in 2015 and 2016 before being cut by Cleveland last week when he refused to take a pay cut. The Steelers immediately scooped him up.

And Mitchell missed all of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury.

When this game is kicked off, those two will have had all of about 3 1/2 practices working together. They’re both veteran players, but that might not be enough time to get everything down in terms of communication.

For the Steelers, this game will be all about unveiling what could be the NFL’s best offense.

On paper, with Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, a top-notch offensive line and Roethlisberger as the trigger man, it looks to be among the league’s best. But, as we saw Thursday night when the Patriots were destroyed at home by Kansas City, the game isn’t played on paper.

Still, when the Steelers had that group on the field consistently to end the 2014 season - yes it’s been that long - they averaged 31 points per game.

Since then, injuries and suspensions have kept them from having them all together. In fact, this game will mark just the second time Bell has played in a regular season opener, while Bryant will be appearing in his first.

And Bryant has never before played in an NFL game in the month of September.

With Cleveland missing No. 1-overall draft pick Myles Garrett, the Steelers should have their way with the Cleveland defense. Garrett, a defensive end who looks like the real deal, suffered a high ankle sprain in practice this week and won’t play in this one.

The Steelers will have their first-round draft pick in the lineup. T.J. Watt will become the first outside linebacker since Aaron Jones in 1988 to start the opener for the Steelers.

The Browns will likely try to test the rookie with their running game as they try to open things up for some play-action passing for the big-armed Kizer.

But, if the Steelers come out and score like they should be able to, it could take the run out of the equation.

The Steelers are 9-point favorites in this game. They should cover that spread.

Take Pittsburgh, 34-10

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