Le’Veon Bell is still yet to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even if Bell does not play the Cleveland Browns have a tough task ahead of them.
It is an extreme case of deja vu. Le’Veon Bell is not reporting to the Steelers before their Week 1 matchup with the Browns. Last year Bell ended up playing and struggling mightily, rushing for only 32 yards on 10 carries and catching three passes for 15 yards. This is far from the production expected from Bell on both sides. This year it does not appear that Bell will play in this years season opener. Even if he does not play the Browns are in for a fight.
Pittsburgh can seemingly sign guys off the street and have them perform in their offense. That is how good the Steelers offense has been over the years. Although there is a difference between when they have a playmaker at the running back position and when they do not. While they did finish 2-1 last September it can be argued they should have been 1-2. Cleveland could have won the season opener last year, but they did not. Pittsburgh did lose to Chicago in overtime in Week 3. Throughout the first three weeks Bell was not himself. Averaging 60 rushing yards per game and just over 18 yards through the air. Pittsburgh managed to win two of three without peak Bell, that is just how good the team is. That is why Cleveland will still have their hands full on Sunday.
As long as Ben Roethlisberger is lining up under center the Steelers offense just produces. Roethlisberger is able to find extend plays and find open receivers with ease. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster will give opposing defenses fits. Brown is arguably the best receiver in the league and Smith-Schuster is able to take advantage of defenses scheming for Brown. This team should in theory be able to handle the Browns in Week 1.
But this does not appear to be the same old Browns
The Browns have their best quarterback in a long time in Tyrod Taylor. There is a three-headed monster in the backfield with Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson Jr., and Nick Chubb. The receiving corps is an overlooked unit that could line up with the best of them. Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway will do their fair share of damage this season.
On the defensive side of the ball Cleveland has a scary defensive line. Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi and Emmanuel Ogbah are a young group but have a chance to take a massive step forward this year. The secondary is as deep as it has ever been. There is talent and versatility all across the defensive backfield and they can certainly hold their own against just about any opponent.
The Browns appear to be ready to fight and show they are for real this Sunday. There has been a massive talent upgrade all across the roster. A mix of draft picks, free agent signings and trades have brought the Browns out of the cellar and ready to compete in 2018. The Browns may be able to sneak away with a win to start the 2018 season. Winning against Pittsburgh would build confidence on a team that is usually nonexistent.
This of course all relies on the Browns winning a tough matchup against a perennial playoff contender.