CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns 2017 season kicks off with a bang as they host the rival Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.
The revamped Browns defense will be tested against the top tier offense lead by the three-headed monster of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell.
The bad news for the Browns is that rookie defensive end Myles Garrett will miss the game with a high ankle sprain. He is expected to miss two to four weeks.
Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson said Garrett is not injury prone. He knows how the injury happened and emphasized it could happen to anyone.
Rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer makes his regular season debut for the Browns. Kizer showed impressive flashes of potential with down the field passes and touchdowns. Downfield passing is something that we didn’t see out of Cody Kessler in his rookie season last year.
Kizer will have a great offensive line protecting him consisting of pro bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, former Cincinnati Bengal right guard Kevin Zeitler and former Green Bay packers center J.C. Tretter. Kizer should have plenty of time to make his passing reads, something that not all rookie quarterbacks can say. Will the Browns receivers make big plays?
Corey Coleman was the consistently good receiver during the pre-season but his injury history is still a major concern.
If Coleman stays healthy for the entire game, he could be the main weapon on offense. Kenny Britt is coming off of his first 1,000 receiving yards season. Is Britt a one-year wonder or will continue to provide big plays and scoring chances?
Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will probably give the Steelers defense some problems. Crowell rushed for 952 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
The defense will likely have early success against the Steelers offense. The Browns pass defense had plenty of big moments including sacking quarterbacks and pressuring them. Jamie Collins, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and Christian Kirksey look like a unit that can force Roethlisberger to make plays with his legs rather than his cannon arm.
However, the Steelers train of offense won’t be stopped by the brick wall if they are on the field too long. The Browns potential lack of offense could be a big problem.
Prediction: The Browns offense will struggle against the Steelers defense which ranked 12th in the NFL last year in yards allowed per game. Kizer will get a rude awakening to the level of competition before bouncing back after a couple of games under his belt.
It is an extremely high expectation for the Browns to stonewall the Steelers offense and come up with big plays against the young, emerging Steelers defense. Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree could put pressure on Kizer early on.
Steelers 38 Browns 10.