Steelers at Browns
The Pittsburgh Steelers locked up Antonio Brown in the offseason and finally brought Le'Veon Bell into camp when he signed his franchise tender earlier this week, once again giving the team two of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the NFL. Those two and the rest of the Steelers' offense open the season on Sunday by visiting the Cleveland Browns, who will be without top overall pick Myles Garrett.
The Browns made Garrett, a defensive end from Texas A&M, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and expected him to be a force against opposing quarterbacks like Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. "In order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, we do have to get Ben down," Cleveland coach Hue Jackson told reporters. "That is just the truth. That is not something that is out of the ordinary. In order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to slow Ben down. That is the only way to slow him down is by getting him on the ground." Cleveland will have a tough time doing that without Garrett, who went down with a high ankle sprain in practice on Wednesday and will miss the game. The Steelers will test the Garrett-less defense with a healthy dose of Bell, who is expected to assume a full workload in Week 1 despite sitting out most of camp.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Steelers -9. O/U: 47
ABOUT THE STEELERS (2016: 11-5): Pittsburgh finished 16th in the NFL in passing defense last season, allowing an average of 243 yards through the air, and upgraded the secondary by bringing in former Pro Bowler Joe Haden after he was cut by Cleveland at the end of the preseason. “My biggest thing is always my peers,” Haden told reporters. "That’s the thing that really helped me feel good about Big Ben and (Maurkice) Pouncey and Antonio Brown wanting me to come here. Having that love and having that respect from your peers, that’s the best thing you can ask for. They’ve seen me play before with the Browns but I want to show them I work hard at practice, this is what I do, I’m a professional." The Steelers' other big upgrade on the defensive side of the ball is first-round pick T.J. Watt, younger brother of Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who impressed in camp and tops the depth chart at the outside linebacker spot.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (2016: 1-15): Garrett wasn't the only rookie ready to fill a starting role for Cleveland, which named second-round pick DeShone Kizer as its starting quarterback. “He understands what he needs to do,” Jackson told reporters of his rookie quarterback. “He has had a good week of practice and is working hard. He has prepared well. This isn’t the game. The game is Sunday. That’s what he has to get himself ready for." Kizer takes over a Browns' offense that finished 30th in the NFL last season while averaging just 16.5 points and lost top receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency.
1. Steelers OT Jerald Hawkins (knee) did not participate in practice on Thursday.
2. Cleveland released S Calvin Pryor on Thursday after he was involved in a fight in practice with teammate Ricardo Louis.
3. Pittsburgh owns a four-game winning streak in the series.