Remember when so many thought Browns rookie QB Colt McCoy would be completely overwhelmed in his pro debut at Pittsburgh in October? Well, he wasn't, and Cleveland hung in there against Pittsburgh for about three quarters.
Then, the Steelers broke away, notching a 28-10 win. McCoy threw for 281 yards and a late TD, but he was picked twice and sacked five times. Also, Cleveland's lone TD came with about four minutes left in the game and after Pittsburgh had scored three touchdowns of its own.
The concern now is no longer whether the stage is too big for McCoy, but instead something that's been an issue in Cleveland the last several years: the Browns' lack of punch on offense. The Browns are averaging 11.5 points in their last four games after scoring 20 or more in a five-game stretch from mid-October to late November.
The Browns' running game is one of their greatest strengths, but RB Peyton Hillis has been bothered by injured ribs, and the Steelers flat-out slam the door on most ground games. McCoy fared much better than expected vs. the Steelers' pass defense in the first meeting, but what happens now that Pittsburgh gets a second chance to stop him and there are seven full games of tape on his tendencies? He threw three picks a week ago vs. Baltimore, which seemed to have a good read on him.
With the AFC North title in sight, and with the Browns in the midst of a three-game slump, look for the Steelers to sweep the season series vs. Cleveland. The Steelers have the playmakers needed to take control early but are also quite capable of wearing down Cleveland with their running game and stout defense.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 13