Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penguins Game 5 Preview - vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

8:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Penguins Last Game
October 18, 2014 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 1


Probables

Pittsburgh (3-1-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Blake Comeau - Nick Spaling - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Olli Maatta
Paul Martin - Christian Ehrhoff
Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Philadelphia (1-3-2) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jake Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo - Chris VandeVelde - Blair Jones

Defense
Nick Grossmann - Andrew MacDonald
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Michael Del Zotto - Luke Schenn

Goaltender
Ray Emery


Stats

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Steelers Game 7 Recap - Steelers 30, Texans 23

First almost the entire first half the Steelers like one of the worst football teams in the league. They weren't doing anything right on offense or defense and they were getting booed off the field on nearly every offensive possession. It was really bad times. After they failed to put up points on the first drive and subsequently pin the Texans on their own six yard line they allowed Houston to go 94 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown. Not only was that bad but allowing Houston to gain huge chunks of yards was a concern:



Woof.

Luckily for the Steelers fans the something clicked late in the second quarter and it led to a landslide of points that I don't think I have ever see from a Steelers team in my lifetime. Shaun Suisham closed out an eight play, 60 yard drive with a field goal with 3:08 remaining in the half and it was the first of 24 points the Steelers would score in the last 3:08to turn a 13-0 deficit into an 11 point halftime lead.

The Steelers forced a pair of turnovers inside the Texans' 20 yard line and in five plays and in 1:10 scored three touchdowns. Houston had no idea what to do. They looked like they didn't have an answer and just kept coughing the ball up and the Steelers kept their foot on the gas.

For much of the season the offense has been wildly inconsistent but for a brief stretch last night they completely dominated the opposing team and damn near put the game away.

Thanks to some shoddy receiver play recently Martavis Bryant, the Steelers fourth round pick out of Clemson, caught his first touchdown pass in his first game played from Ben Roethlisberger which was followed by a Lance Moore and Le'Veon Bell touchdown receptions.

The Moore touchdown was something to behold as it was Antonio Brown throwing the pass a play after the Steelers forced an Arian Foster fumble. Brown was going from left to right and stopped right after the handoff and rolled back to his left and threw a strike to Moore who was decently covered. What can't Antonio Brown do?

Speaking of, I think I sound like a broken record but Brown continues to be one of the very best receivers in the league. He caught nine passes for 90 yards and it would have been even more if the officials would have gave him a touchdown late in the game. It looked like it was a good catch on the TV and it didn't come back to hurt the Steelers but it's hard to get a touchdown taken off the board. Currently Brown leads the league with 719 receiving yards on 50 catches, the most among receivers (Matt Forte leads the league with 52). You know that there is going to be a game where he gets shut down but right now I just can't see that happening.

Another "broken record" is Bell. Dude is just a monster. Over the past five years the Steelers have done a really poor job of utilizing the backs out of the backfield despite having some good athletes back there, but this year is different. Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards including a huge 43 yard catch and run on third and long in the second quarter that led to the Steelers first points of the game. Bell also had 12 carries for 57 yards for almost five yards per carry. When the ball is in his hands a lot of things go right.

Bell also had a stake in this little tidbit:



Overall I don't think the Steelers have a very good team. They struggle on offense, struggle on defense, and struggle on special teams. They had an outstanding stretch of football in the second quarter but most of the first half was just horrible. The inconsistencies were still there but I guess it might be a good sign that they were at least able to overcome the lackluster play and win the game. They still were not able to finish drives but they were able to get points. In back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter they got field goals but putting the game away would have been really nice.

Defensively it was the same as the offense. I don't think they are a good defense and they are relying on some really past-their-prime players but the fact is that they stepped up last night. The Steelers have had a really tough time creating turnovers but they got three last night and they all came at really crucial times. They really struggled in the first half giving up scoring drives in each of Houston's first three drives but after that they buckled down and allowed Houston to gain only seven yards on the next five drives (one was to end the half). That is some good defense to pick up the offense.

After giving up massive amount of yards on penalties the Steelers committed only six penalties for 38 yards on Sunday.

All Lawrence Timmons does is make tackles. Actually he throws up on the field too, which might have been the sole reason for the turnaround late in the second half, but that is neither here nor there. Timmons made 12 tackles with 11 of them solo, and had a sack and two tackles for loss. He has been a bit up and down this season but overall has been pretty steady all season. That is how you bounce back from throwing up on the field.

The Steelers are now 4-3. The season hasn't been good but all things being equal they are only one back in the loss column from both Baltimore and Cincinnati and while I don't think they are a playoff team you never know what can happen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Penguins Game 4 Preview - vs. New York Islanders

New York Islanders

1:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game
October 16, 2014 - Dallas 3, Pittsburgh 2


The Probables

Pittsburgh (2-1-0) [via Penguins website]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Steve Downie - Nick Spaling - - Blake Comeau
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Christian Ehrhoff - Paul Martin
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

New York (4-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Cory Conacher - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome
Nikolai Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Defense
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Calvin de Haan

Goaltender
Jaroslav Halak


Stats

Friday, October 17, 2014

Steelers Game 7 Preview - vs. Houston Texans

This is going to be a very abbreviated preview. I am in the process of starting a new job and moving so I have had barely enough time to sleep this week but that doesn't mean the world stops or the Steelers aren't going to be playing football. To say that the Steelers have been underwhelming would be an understatement. Last week they got embarrassed by the Browns and now they are 3-3 to start the season. They seems pretty fitting because they are a largely average team and including last season they are 11-11. Exciting.

The Texans aren't really an overwhelmingly good team, but neither were Tampa Bay and some of the other teams that the Steelers have struggled against. The Texans passing offense is pretty bad but they have a running game led by Arian Foster. The Texans are averaging 22 points per game which is just a touch above the Steelers while the Texans defense has been pretty poor. In terms of DVOA they rank right in the middle of the league against the pass and are getting gashed against the run, ranking 24th.

Here are the numbers for the Houston offense:

Passing

Ryan Fitzpatrick
Completions: 104
Attempts: 160
Completion %: 65%
Yards: 1,268
YPA: 7.9
TD: 6
INT: 6
DVOA: -5.8% (26th)
DYAR: 59 (25th)

Rushing

Arian Foster
Attempts: 106
Yards: 513
Average: 4.8
Touchdowns: 5
DVOA: 7.3% (11th)
DYAR: 66 (7th)
Success Rate: 49% (15th)

Alfred Blue
Attempts: 42
Yards: 165
Average: 3.9
Touchdowns: 0
DVOA: -18.9%
DYAR: -17

Receiving

Andre Johnson
Receptions: 34
Targets: 54
Yards: 419
Average: 12.3
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: -6.9% (49th)
DYAR: 26 (41st)
Catch Rate: 63%

DeAndre Hopkins
Receptions: 25
Targets: 33
Yards: 366
Average: 14.6
Touchdowns: 3
DVOA: 31.6% (5th)
DYAR: 114 (13th)
Catch Rate: 76%

Damaris Johnson
Receptions: 8
Targets: 14
Yards: 133
Average: 16.6
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: 9.6%
DYAR: 23
Catch Rate: 57%

Offensive Line
Adjusted Line Yards: 3.75 (23rd)
Power Success: 59% (22nd)
Stuffed %: 19% (19th)

Rushing Frequency:
Left End: 6% (3.34 ALY, 22nd)
Left Tackle: 21% (3.70, 19th)
Middle/Guard: 47% (4.00, 18th)
Right Tackle: 21% (3.25, 26th)
Right End: 6% (4.24, 12th)

Here is a look at the Houston Defense. The Houston defense ranks 15th overall in terms of DVOA at -0.3% while they rank 12th in pass defense (0.8%) and 24th in rushing defense (-1.8%).

Here are some of the statistical leaders for the defense:

Brian Cushing
Total Tackles: 49
Solo Tackles: 30
Sacks: 1.0
Passes Defended: 1
Interceptions: 0

Johnathan Joseph
Total Tackles: 41
Solo Tackles: 38
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 3
Interceptions: 0

Kendrick Lewis
Total Tackles: 40
Solo Tackles: 29
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 1
Interceptions: 1

Kareem Jackson
Total Tackles: 32
Solo Tackles: 26
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 4
Interceptions: 1

J.J. Watt
Total Tackles: 26
Solo Tackles: 17
Sacks: 4.0
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 1

Here is a look at the Texans special teams

Kicking

Randy Bullock
Field Goals Attempted: 11
Field Goals Made: 9
Long: 55
1-19: 0/0
20-29: 2/3
30-39: 2/3
40-49: 3/3
50+: 2/2
Extra Points: 15/15

Punting

Shane Lechler
Punts: 29
Yards: 1,405
Average: 48.4
Long: 71
Inside 20: 8
Touchback: 6
Fair Catch: 5
Average Return Against: 11.8 yards

Returns

Damaris Johnson
Kick Return Attempts: 4
Kick Return Yards: 94
Kick Return Average: 23.5
Kick Return Long: 31
Kick Return TD: 0
Punt Return Attempts: 9
Punt Return Yards: 54
Punt Return Average: 6.0
Punt Return Long: 12
Punt Return TD: 0

Prediction: Steelers 24, Texans 21

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steelers Game 6 Recap - Browns 31, Steelers 10

This was just a pretty bad football game all the way around. I wouldn't say the Steelers lost to a bad football team because the Browns can play some pretty good football but the manner in which the Steelers lost the game and were just outright dominated by Cleveland leaves you wondering if another 8-8 or worse season is all but inevitable.

Really nothing went right. The Steelers defense played pretty well in the first quarter and it would have been a great time for the Steelers offense to put up some points and maybe make the Browns feel the pressure. All that happened was the Steelers got a field goal in the red zone and they wouldn't score again until late in the fourth quarter. Just a dismal effort by the offense against a bad defense and really is what led to the loss.

While the Steelers were busy not scoring points the Browns were busy scoring points.


The Steelers had no answers for the Cleveland offense and they couldn't do anything offensively. The Browns didn't really do much defensively but the Steelers were dropping passes and missing targets and not hitting the hole and just generally looking awful.

Ben Roethlisberger did not look good throwing the football as he barely completed 50% of his passes and didn't even get over five yards per pass attempt. I don't think he had a lot of help but when the Steelers run game doing a pretty decent job you have to make something happen through the air. It is a passing league and when you can't pass it's going to be next to impossible to win.

Antonio Brown had a nice day with seven catches for 118 yards and Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 18 times for 82 yards so there were some positive plays around. That was about it though. It was a really bad day for the Steelers.

I will just end it with the Steelers drive chart:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Penguins Game 2 Preview - @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs

7:00 p.m., Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

The Last Penguins Game:
October 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Anaheim 4 [Recap]

Probables

Pittsburgh (1-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Nick Spaling - Marcel Goc - Blake Comeau
Steve Downie - Zach Sill - Craig Adams

Defense
Christian Ehrhoff - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Toronto (0-1-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Brandon Kozun
Daniel Winnik - Peter Holland - Richard Panik
Leo Komarov - Mike Santorelli - David Clarkson

Defense
Dion Phaneuf - Stephane Robidas
Jake Gardiner - Morgan Rielly
Stuart Percy - Roman Polak

Goaltender
Jonathan Bernier


Stats

Friday, October 10, 2014

Steelers Game 6 Preview - @ Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns – 1:00 p.m.
CBS – Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
All-Time Record: Pittsburgh leads 66-57 (Pittsburgh leads 2-0 in playoffs)
Last Meeting: September 7, 2014 – Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 27


Before the Steelers play a single game against the Cincinnati Bengals they will play their second game against the Cleveland Browns. Interesting in how that works out but after a week one win over the Browns the Steelers look to in the fifth straight game against the Browns and the 33rd time in the last 38 games.

In week one the Steelers sprinted out to a 27-10 halftime lead before the Browns came storming back to tie the game at 27 in the fourth quarter before Shaun Suisham won the game for the Steelers. The Steelers offense racked up 503 yards of offense but it was the Browns offense that scored in their first four possessions of the second half to go along with 288 yards of offense.


As it was for every game last season here are some of the key terms I am going to use to break down the Jaguars for your reference. All information came from Football Outsiders :

DVOA - DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

DYAR - Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the player’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.

ALY - Adjusted Line Yards. Based on regression analysis , the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value

These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.

Power Success - Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. This is the only statistic on this page that includes quarterbacks.

Stuffed - Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).

Adjusted Sack Rate -  Gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.

Catch Rate - Catch Rate represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed. This is a reference to incomplete passes, not dropped passes.

Success Rate - This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more.

Effective Yards - translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate. Effective Yards are not the best way to measure total value because they are more dependent on usage than DYAR.

QBR - Total QBR (listed as just QBR) is a metric created by the ESPN Stats & Information group. Total QBR is based on the expected points added by the quarterback on each play, then adjusts the numbers to a scale of 0-100. League average is 50. There are five main differences between Total QBR and Football Outsiders' DVOA metric (with further explanation here):

-Total QBR incorporates information from game charting, such as passes dropped or thrown away on purpose.
-Total QBR splits responsibility on plays between the quarterback, his receivers, and his blockers. Drops, for example, are more on the receiver, as are yards after the catch, and some sacks are more on the offensive line than others.
-Total QBR has a clutch factor which adds (or subtracts) value for quarterbacks who perform best (or worst) in high-leverage situations.
-Total QBR combines passing and rushing value into one number and differentiates between scrambles and planned runs.
-Total QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent.

And now lets take a look at the Browns.

Cleveland Offense

Overall the Browns have been one of the best teams in the league on offense. That feels kind of weird to say after the Browns have been just dreadful in my lifetime but they rank fourth in the NFL with an offensive DVOA of 21.2% that was on display in a 25 points comeback win last week. Their pass offense ranks fourth in the league with a 40.3% DVOA while their rushing attack is fifth with a 7.5% DVOA.

Would it shock you to know that Brian Hoyer ranks ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in every advanced statistic including DYR (249, eighth), DVOA (12.2%, seventh), and QBR (72.2, eighth)? Well that is where we are. The Browns aren’t the most talented team on paper but Hoyer is making the offense click at a very high rate. When Johnny Manziel was drafted it was thought he was going to get first shot to make things work but since Hoyer was named the starter in camp he has never looked back.

Last week in the come-from-behind win he completed 21-of-37 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. In week one against the Steelers he went 18-of-30 for 22 yards and a touchdown and had his way in the second half completing big passes on crucial third downs. This isn’t to say Hoyer isn’t breakable because he still makes mistakes and has a relatively low completion percentage but this isn’t a Browns quarterback from the past. He can actually play.

In terms of receiving options the Browns don’t really have the flashy, bit names on their roster. Jordan Cameron is the big name in the tight end spot but he has been hampered with a shoulder injury and has only six catches for 103 yards this season. He was targeted seven times last week against Tennessee and made only three catches for 33 yards. Last time out against the Steelers he was knocked out of the game with that shoulder injury after making two catches for 47 yards with one catch accounting for all of those yards.

Miles Austin is the other big name receiver on the team and has made 16 catches but only for 169 yards. He does have two of the teams six touchdown catches and is the highest ranked pass catcher in both DYAR (37, 28th) and DVOA (8.3%, 21st). Austin has a very impressive catch rate of 70% but has been largely kept in check with his top game coming last week where he catch two passes for 54 yards.

Andrew Hawkins leads the team in catches (24), targets (42), yards (271), and catches for 20 yards or more (four). Hawkins has a catch rate of only 54% and while he headlines the team in the statistical categories he is just a fringy top-50 receiver with a DYAR of 10 (48th) and a DVOA of -9.2% (49th). Hawkins had hiw way with the Steelers secondary in week one with eight catches for 87 yards. He might not be the biggest name but when Hoyer needed someone to go to it was Hawkins who he looked at.

In terms of pass blocking the Browns have kept Hoyer relatively clean. They have allowed only six sacks on the season which is almost 33% of what the Steelers have given up (15) and the Browns post an adjusted sack rate of 5.1% ranks 13th in the league.

The Browns have been doing a pretty excellent job of running the football this season as evident by their 143 rushing yards per game divided up by three different running backs. Terrance West has been carrying the workload and is averaging nearly 60 yards per game and a pair of touchdowns on 54 carries. West had his way with the Steelers in week one after coming in for Ben Tate who was knocked out of the game. He carried 16 times for 100 yards and it was by far his best outing. West ranks 11th in DYAR (46),while posting a DVOA of 10.9% that is ninth in the league and having a respectable success rate of 56%.

It will be interesting to see how much West touches the ball since Tate is back in action. After leaving the week one game after six carries for 41 yards he missed nearly the next month of action. Last week against Tennessee he carried the rock 22 times for 124 yards so it seems as if West is going to take a backseat to Tate as long as he is successful. Tate had some good success before going out with the knee injury in week one so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him have some success on Sunday.

In terms of advanced statistics the Browns don’t rank out quite as high as they do with the raw numbers. Cleveland has a 4.29 adjusted line yards that ranks 11th in the league. The ALY is quite a bit below the running back yard average of 4.79 which might indicate that the Browns running backs are doing a pretty good job of getting yards themselves without getting great run blocking. All told the league average is 4.20 so it isn’t as if the Browns line and running backs are below average, it just seems that the running backs themselves are doing a great job.

In terms of short yardage play Cleveland has a power success percentage of 60% that ranks 19th in the league while their stuffed percentage of 16% is 12th in the league. Neither of those are horrible numbers but more middle of the pack. Again, not saying that they are bad but not nearly as close to a top-five rushing team as the raw numbers might indicate.

The Browns have a pretty balanced running attack that is largely predicated on running inside. They are below league average running 44% of their running plays up the middle or off the guards but they also run to each tackle quite a bit above league average. They run to the left tackle 19% of the time (league average 14%) and run to the right tackle 22% of the time (league average 13%) which is to show that they don’t really try to get to the perimeter as much as most teams do.

The Browns run off the tackles a good bit more because they are very good at it. When running to the left tackle the Browns are second in the league with an ALY of 5.67 while they are fifth in the league with an ALY of 4.96 when running to the right tackle. They rank 20th or worse in each of the other three areas and the ALY in each area is below league average so I think the Browns will try to attack those areas.

Cleveland Defense

While the Cleveland offense has been putting up big points and coming back from big time deficits they have been covering up from what has been a pretty bad defense. The Browns are surrendering almost 422 yards per game that includes 153 rushing yards and 269 yards through the air. They have allowed over 26 point per game and have allowed at least 23 points in every game this season.

Football Outsiders ranks Cleveland’s defense 31st in the league with a 17.9% DVOA, while they rank 30th against the pass (34.7%) and 28th against the run (2.3%). It would be one thing to say that they had a bad week that would throw things way out of line but Cleveland leads the league with a variance of 0.8%. What that means is that the Cleveland defense is the most consistent in the league. Most consistent at being bad. Not good.

Looking like Joe Haden might be a game-time decision for the Browns and if he isn’t able to go the Steelers are really going to have an advantage. Against opposing top receivers the Browns have a 99.5% DVOA (!!!) that is dead last in the league and 38% more than the second-worst team in the league. WOOF. Against the number two receivers Cleveland is a little better with an 11.2% DVOA that ranks only 22nd in the league but they are 29th (43.1%) against all other receivers.

The Browns do have some success against tight ands and running backs but in the grand scheme of the passing game that is like the consolation prize. Against tight ends they rank 10th in the league while ranking ninth in the league against running backs. The Steelers like to throw to the backs out of the backfield so that might make a difference but if they can’t cover Antonio Brown or Markus Wheaton or Lance Moore than that is a moot point.

The Browns are about average in terms of getting after the quarterback. They have registered nine sacks on the season and that is just one more than the Steelers have got. The Steelers do not get after the quarterback well. Cleveland ranks 12th with an adjusted sack rate of 6.3%. Ex-Raven Paul Kruger and ex-Pitt Panther Jabaal Sheard each have a pair of sacks this season. In the last meeting the Browns got to Roethlisberger three times. All things considered that is a pretty decent performance by the pass protection.

Cleveland is giving up an average of 4.82 yards to running backs and ranks 23rd in the league with an adjusted line yards of 4.38. The Browns do a pretty nice job against the short yardage runs with a power success rate of 57% that is 10th in the league while they don’t do as well at stuffing the run with a rate of 16% that is 21st in the league.

A big hit to the run defense for the Browns is going to have to play without Phil Taylor who is going to miss the game. Taylor is an underrated defensive player that doesn’t get a lot of pub but make the defense go. Much in the same way Casey Hampton stuffed the run for the Steelers in his prime is what Taylor does for the Browns. This is huge news for the Steelers even after they ran for 127 yards in the first meeting.

Teams are attacking the Browns up the middle on a majority of the carries up the middle or off the guards. Teams are attacking that area 59% of the running back carries while teams are running to the right offensive tackle 19%. In terms of success teams are averaging a 4.14 ALY up the middle while gaining a 5.31 ALY off the offensive right guard. The Steelers will have some opportunities to gain chucks of yardage on the ground.

Karlos Dansby eads the team with 31 total tackles (20 solo) with a sack and an interception while Donte Whitner has 30 teakles and a team-high 23 solo tackles. Tashaun Gipson has a pair of interceptions while Dansby has four of the teams 10 tackles for loss.

Cleveland Special Teams

The great Billy Cundiff will once again handle the kicking duties for the Browns. So far this season he is 6-of-8 with a miss in the 30-39 area and one from 50+ yards. He has also made every extra point this season, but who hasn’t?

Spencer Lanning punts for the Browns and sits in the bottom-half of the league in terms of average with only 44.7 yards per punt. His net average doesn’t even reach 40 yards (39.4) which is also right in the middle of the league. The coverage team does an average job with what they are given as oppositions average 8.6 yards per punt return.

Travis Benjamin and Marlon Moore share the kick returning duties. Moore is the more successful returner averaging 27 yards per return (four attempts) while Benjamin averages 21 yards per return on five attempts. The Browns are pretty brutal in terms of punt returning as Jordan Poyer averages a team-best 3.5 yards per return (four attempts) while Benjamin has three returns for two yards.

The Steelers

A nice tidbit about the Steelers passing attack:

The Steelers are in an interesting predicament. The Browns are doing a pretty awful job at covering the pass and if Haden is out they might want to attack that secondary. With Taylor out and a  strong group of running backs the Steelers can attack on the ground as well. Bell is eighth in the league with a DYAR of 63 and is 12th in DVOA (9.9%) all despite being second in the league in rushing yards. Bell also has a poor success rate (45%, 21st) but he is still making the right moves. He has been wildly successful in the passing game with a catch rate of 83% and a DVOA that ranks sixth among all running backs in the passing game (36.5%).

With Cam Thomas playing some pretty awful football I would look for Stephon Tuitt to get a lot more snaps as the season progresses. He has averaged between 10-12 snaps a game and he has looked better in every game. He seems to have been slow to learn the system but at this point I don't think there is anything wrong with getting him more playing time. Thomas had the third-most snaps (28) of any defensive lineman last week and I wouldn't be surprised if the gap between Tuitt and Thomas to shrink.

PREDICTION – I do not think that this is going to be like the week one matchup. While the Browns have a pretty good offensively this year they have been just as bad defensively. The Steelers have been pretty inconsistent on both sides of the ball so I could see this game going either way. The Steelers could come out for a put together a solid offensive performance and get a few stops and win. On the other hand they can’t be complacent at all. In week one they were up big and allowed the Browns to tie it and last week the Browns came back from a 25 points deficit to win. They are never out of it. I think this goes back and forth but the Steelers come out on top. Steelers 27, Browns 24.