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Steelers-Browns Preview Capsule

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A season that was just recently so promising is now hanging by a thread. After last week's stunning loss in Baltimore, the Steelers are in of need to help to reach the playoffs.

The Steelers need to beat the Browns in Cleveland, and hope the Buffalo Bills can down the suddenly hot New York Jets. Otherwise, Pittsburgh will be a postseason observer for the third time in the last four years.

 

Pittsburgh (9-6) at Cleveland (3-12)
Sunday, Jan. 3
1 PM on CBS
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

What's On The Line: The Playoffs. The Steelers were in control of their own destiny just one week ago, needing only victories over the struggling Ravens and Browns to earn a playoff spot. After losing the Baltimore last week, however, the Steelers are now depending on the Bills to beat the Jets to get into the tournament. Of course, the Steelers must also beat the Browns.

Player to Watch: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers secondary has been bad and the front seven let the team down last week in Baltimore. And despite all of his great performances this season, wide receiver Antonio Brown was rendered ineffective by both Seattle and Baltimore in the Steelers two most recent losses. But it still all comes down to Roethlisberger. Unless Roethlisberger is great -- not merely "good" but "great" -- the Steelers are a very beatable team. Big Ben must play at an elite level every week for the Steelers to win football games. The team's postseason hopes now rest on directly Roethlisberger's wide shoulders.

Of Note: The Browns have lost nine of their last 10 games.

Injury Report: Browns starting quarterback Johnny Manziel is currently in the league-mandated concussion protocol. If he is unable to be cleared by Sunday, Austin Davis will start in his place. Wide receiver Travis Benjamins (ankle) and Marlon Moore (concussion), linebacker Carlos Danby (toe), running backs Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Glenn Winston (concussion), tackle Joe Thomas (knee) and cornerback Tramon Williams (concussion) have all missed practice time this week.

Steelers safety Mike Mitchell continues to battle through a significant shoulder injury. Cornerback Antwon Blake was forced from the Ravens game due to back spasms and his availability for Sunday is in question. If Blake cannot go, expect Ross Cockrell to start outside opposite William Gay, with Brandon Boykin manning the slot when teams deploy multiple wide receiver sets.

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