Two back-up quarterbacks who have been thrust into starting situations go head to head on Thursday night in a must-not-lose AFC North clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.
The calls for a QB change are getting louder in Pittsburgh after the Steelers fell to 1-1 last Sunday on the back of a tentative display from veteran Mitch Trubisky.
The former Chicago Bears triggerman has since revealed how short a leash he's on by admitting he can't call audibles on certain plays at the line of scrimmage.
The Browns, meanwhile, wish they could have a do-over of the final two minutes from last week's shocking home loss to the New York Jets and will be out to give Jacoby Brissett the platform to re-establish their winning record.
|What||Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns, AFC North|
|Where||FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio|
|When||20:15 ET, Thursday September 22nd 2022|
|How to watch||Amazon Prime Video|
|Odds||PIT Steelers +175, CLE Browns -210|
Brissett played well in Cleveland's 31-30 defeat to the Jets and seemed to have led the Browns to a 2-0 mark when he trotted off the field following Nick Chubb's touchdown which put the hosts 30-17 up with two minutes to play.
But a catastrophic series of events then ensued, beginning with Cade York missing the extra point and culminating with Jets QB Joe Flacco hitting Garrett Wilson for the go-ahead score after New York had recovered an onside kick.
It could all have been avoided if Chubb had sat down a yard shy of the goal-line rather than enter the end zone, but the Browns weren't the only team to suffer at the hands of an improbable comeback on Sunday and they won't be the last.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and running back Chubb shouldered the blame and they at least get to move on quickly with the short turnaround to Thursday's divisional matchup with the Steelers.
It would appear that Pittsburgh's problems might outweigh Cleveland's right now after a lacklustre offensive showing in Sunday's 17-14 defeat to the New England Patriots.
The boos rang out around Acrisure Stadium when Trubisky failed to convert on a third-down pass to Jaylen Warren and it wasn't long before the crowd were chanting for first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett to replace him.
It would be too simple to put the loss on Trubisky's shoulders, however, as the Steelers' defense allowed New England to convert nine third downs and dropped a crucial interception chance in midfield when the score was 10-6.
Without TJ Watt, Pittsburgh's pass rush was unable to get to Patriots quarterback Mac Jones once and allowed him a nice, consistently clean pocket to work with all afternoon.
Pittsburgh will again be without All-Pro outside linebacker Watt, who suffered a torn pec in their Week 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
But inside linebacker Devin Bush, who suffered a foot injury against the Patriots, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who missed Wednesday practice with leg cramps, are expected to play on Thursday.
The Browns lost three key players to injury during Sunday's loss to the Jets, with defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (ankle) and Chase Winovich (hamstring) plus tight end Jesse James (biceps) all ruled out of Thursday's clash.
Their top pass rusher, Myles Garrett, was limited in practice this week but is expected to play, along with starting left guard Joel Bitonio and right tackle Jack Conklin, who have also been dealing with injuries.
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Amari Cooper had a big game last weekend with nine receptions for 101 yards and TD. The former Dallas Cowboys star was targeted twice as much as any other receiver against the Jets and can expect a similar workload against a Steelers secondary that could not contain the Patriots wideouts.
But the Browns will put together another balanced attack - utilizing the best running back duo in the league of Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
They combined for 145 yards rushing on 30 carries, with Chubb barrelling through for three touchdowns and their ability to punch holes in the stacked boxes that the Browns continually face will be crucial to keeping Cleveland in manageable third-down situations.
Expect Chubb, in particular, to be desperate to make amends for the mental error that cost his team last week while all of the Browns players will want to exorcise the ghosts of last Sunday.
But while the hosts should win, the Steelers may be able to cover the Spread as +4.5 underdogs at -110.
The Steelers have covered in each of their past four match-ups with AFC North opposition, while the underdog has also covered in four straight Pittsburgh vs Cleveland games.
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