Steelers kick off against rivals from Cleveland

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 schedule certainly has a familiar look to it.

Once again, the Black and Gold open in Cleveland. The Browns should be greatly improved over their 0-16 ledger in 2017.

There are 31 new players on the Browns’ 53-man roster, so the losing attitude of the past may be just that, in the past. The Steelers edged the Browns 21-18 in the 2017 season opener. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown was the difference between a win and a loss.

In regards to the Steelers, it’s better to open the season in Cleveland, as opposed to ending the regular season up there in December with the wind whipping off the lake.

The Steelers host Kansas City in Week Two. Last year, the Steelers beat the Chiefs 19-13 on the road in Week Six. Week Three is a Monday night game at Tampa Bay. This game could spell trouble. Baltimore is once again the Week Four opponent. Pittsburgh beat the Ravens 26-9 in Baltimore last year. Atlanta visits in Week Five. The Steelers travel to Cincinnati in Week Six. It was the road game in Cincinnati on December 4, 2017, that ended Ryan Shazier’s season.

Pittsburgh’s bye is in Week Seven (October 21). After that, the schedule resembles a minefield with potential derailments all through it. Any of these could be a pitfall.

The young Browns travel to Pittsburgh in Week Eight. By then, they should be getting their feet under them in regards to what it takes to compete in the National Football League. Week Nine finds the Steelers in Baltimore, followed by a Thursday night home game versus Carolina. That translates into a short prep week. Ten days later, they play in Jacksonville in another prime time encounter. The following week, it’s off to Denver.

A home game versus the Los Angeles Chargers is followed by another Sunday night game, this time in Oakland. A Sunday night game on the West Coast means that the Steelers won’t get back to Greater Pitt until about six a.m. Monday morning. That basically costs them a day of rest and preparation as they gear up for another tough game, New England. The Patriots return to Pittsburgh again this year for a 4:25 p.m. Sunday game on December 16, It was in this game in 2017, that the debate raged over, “Catch, No Catch.”

It’s off to New Orleans for a game two days before Christmas. New Orleans is a solid Super Bowl contender, so this game could be trouble. In 2016 and 2017, the Steelers played on Christmas Day.

The regular season wraps up on December 30, with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting Heinz Field. Finishing with the Bengals is different as in seven of the previous eight seasons, the Steelers concluded with the Browns.

Pittsburgh plays five prime time games with the possibility of a sixth game being moved to prime time via flex scheduling.

Knocked out

The four Browns players that the HBO series “Hard Knocks” focused on all ended up being cut. Usually, they focus on a few of the players who are on the bubble with one or two surviving the cut.

Undrafted free agent rookie tackle Desmond Harrison will start at left tackle for the Browns in the spot that future Hall of Famer Joe Jackson held down for 10 years. To say the least, Harrison has a very checkered past. That past is what led to teams to pass on him in the 2018 draft, even though he was acknowledged to have first-round talent.

Second-year right defensive end Myles Garrett is having fun with what he is saying about the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Last year, Garrett said that he was looking forward to “Toppling Big Ben”. Garrett missed the opener last year with an injury and then Roethlisberger didn’t play in the season finale. Garrett did sack backup Landry Jones in that game.

This year, Garrett had a photo of himself taken, “Shredding Big Ben”, as he feeds a Roethlisberger photo through the shredder. It seems that Garrett has a sense of humor.

Both Browns coordinators (Todd Haley and Gregg Williams) have been head coaches in the NFL. That can be good, and that can be bad; especially for head coach Hue Jackson, if general manager John Dorsey should decide to fire Jackson sometime during the season.

Since the return of the Browns in 1999, Roethlisberger has had11 wins in Cleveland which is more than any other NFL quarterback, including the Brown signal callers.

Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is the son of former Browns safety Ross Fichtner. It was a broken arm suffered by the elder Fichtner that enabled East Liverpool native Bernie Allen to step in as the starting quarterback at Purdue in 1959.

The Steelers have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two teams.