Opponent Preview: Steelers at Browns
You would think the best cure for what ails the Steelers is a game against a team that is currently 0 and 10. You would think that. If only I was confident it’s true.
But let’s look at the Browns. As the picture heading the article indicates, Cleveland is where quarterbacks, whether young and full of beans or older and wiser, go to die.
If you think this is hyperbole, just have a look at the list, beginning with the resuscitation of the franchise in 1998. The colored cells are quarterbacks drafted originally (or picked up as a UDFA) by Cleveland.
The breakdown of when the QBs come to Cleveland is interesting. As you can see, 10 of them were in Cleveland for their rookie season (that would be the nine Cleveland picked up plus Derek Anderson, who never played for the Ravens). Nine of them had already been in the league more than five years—most of them considerably more than five years. The average is more than 7.5 years in the league before going to Cleveland. The last group contains RGIII (drafted in 2012, four years in the league,) Austin Davis (UDFA in 2012—3 years in the league,) Thad Lewis (undrafted in 2010—1 year in the league) and Brian Hoyer (undrafted in 2009, 4 years in the league.)
It’s not like they haven’t tried, although you could argue they haven’t tried hard enough, mostly. The only top five pick was Tim Couch. Even a top-of-the-class quarterback isn’t a guarantee, of course, but by the time you get into the lower half of the first round the success rate drops a good deal.
The quarterback they passed on who has come back to haunt them is Ben Roethlisberger. And boy does he haunt them. Check out this tweet:
Ben Roethlisberger’s 9 wins in Cleveland are more than any Browns QB since 1999 except Derek Anderson, who has 10.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) November 16, 2016
That’s crazy right there. But really, the question is, would Ben Roethlisberger have been Ben Roethlisberger had he gone to Cleveland? You can never re-run the experiment, but I tend to think not. They have had way too many guys go to Cleveland to, well, die. Just for kicks, here is the chart again, but with only a few numbers— QB rating in Cleveland and the number for the rest of their career. I don’t actually know how this will come out as I write this. It will take a few minutes, so please excuse me…
I went through and eliminated the games with Cleveland to calculate the rate, so what you see in the “Passer rating with all other teams” is not their career average but their average outside of Cleveland. You can see a few notable exceptions, but mostly their QB rating was better—sometimes dramatically better—outside of Cleveland.
One of the curious exceptions was Trent Dilfer. He was really rather bad for most of his career. It must gall a lot of other quarterbacks to hear him referred to as a “Super Bowl-winning quarterback,” because he was mostly fairly awful. Well, I guess it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Speaking of which, let us hope that Cleveland on Sunday will be the right place at the right time for the Steelers. Sorry to make this all about the quarterback history, but I can’t help having a sick fascination, sort of like when you pass an accident and can’t stop yourself from looking. Does anybody even know for sure who the quarterback is on Sunday? For the Steelers, I trust it will be Ben, and as for the Browns, let’s hope whoever it is continues the tradition of futility.
And I promise more about the rest of the team when the Browns come to Heinz Field. Until then, you’ll have to content yourself with the main storylines. They have a new head coach. Breaking news—they have a new head coach about every two years.
The current new head coach has not managed to pull the franchise out of the mire yet. And possibly may never get a chance to. Memo to Cleveland ownership—Miracle Max could only revive someone who was just mostly dead. It takes time to turn around a team. Give the guy a chance. I only hope he doesn’t manage it this week…