Browns vs. Steelers 2013 game preview: Pittsburgh tries to stay alive

Justin K. Aller

A brutal start to the season made the Steelers look dead and buried, but a late-season surge has put them in the playoff picture. Now they need a win to keep their hopes alive.

Pittsburgh and Cleveland meet for the second time in 2013 to close out the regular season. It's a game with playoff ramifications for the Steelers while the Browns hit the offseason running with the team trying to find its franchise quarterback.

Meet the Pittsburgh Steelers

What a difference a couple of months make. It wasn't long ago that Ben Roesthlisberger was depicted as unhappy, head coach Mike Tomlin's seat was getting warm and there were questions whether an aging team would rebuild in the offseason.

The Steelers have won five of their last seven games, thrusting them into the playoff picture. It's a difficult road that requires a lot of moving parts to work in concert, but with a little luck and a win they have a chance to surprise. It's a lesson in how unpredictable the NFL can be, and how veteran teams always stand a chance.

Meet the Cleveland Browns

It has been an odd season for the Browns. Inconsistency at the quarterback position has created a scenario where this team can't reliably win games, but wide receiver Josh Gordon has been a revelation. The team's offense was good enough to win four games, and the plan will be to use multiple draft picks to find a franchise quarterback.

Cleveland is bad defensively, and need more time for a young unit to gel. That said, they're aggressive on both sides of the ball which could give a veteran team like Pittsburgh some headaches.

Local Takes: Pittsburgh Steelers

Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain makes a strong case for Antonio Brown to make the Pro Bowl:

Antonio Brown - Without a question, Mr. Team MVP should be one of the AFC's starters. This will be interesting, though, with so many high production receivers, a new standard is being set in terms of the "best" receivers in each conference in each given year. Still, Brown's season is unparalleled in team history, and he's among the top in several major categories.

Local Takes: Cleveland Browns

Brian Sanford is back in Cleveland, and Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature explained his role this week:

Sanford could have a shot at playing this Sunday in the finale against the Steelers. Nose tackle Phil Taylor has a concussion, and defensive end John Hughes is dealing with a knee sprain. By signing Sanford to a two-year deal, it would seem like that they are also interested in having him back for training camp in 2014.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Behind the Steel Curtain, and Dawgs By Nature, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@btsteelcurtain

@DawgsByNature

Prediction

The SB Nation panel believes heavily in the Steelers. Only one member is picking the Browns in Week 17.

Odds

The Steelers are favored by six points, according to Odds Shark. Some outlets are offering as many as 7.5 points.

Next Week

Cleveland waits for the 2014 draft and a busy offseason. Everything depends on whether the Steelers win, which could give them a playoff berth.

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