Cleveland Browns football is finally back. After a long offseason that saw Cleveland have the first overall pick in the draft for the second straight year, a handful of trades and free agent signings, and an appearance on a reality TV show, we are back to games that count.
Week 1 will be a good test for the new-look Browns as rival Pittsburgh Steelers come into FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers will likely be without one of their best players in Le’Veon Ball as he has not signed his franchise tag yet. Pittsburgh still has one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combos in the NFL, which will be a nice test for a young secondary early in the season.
Let’s look at three things to watch when 1 p.m. rolls around on Sunday.
CLEVELAND’S SECONDARY AGAINST ROETHLISBERGER AND BROWN
As mentioned above- even without Bell- Pittsburgh’s offense is very dangerous. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown form one of the most dangerous QB-WR combinations in the league. Brown alone is widely thought of as the best, or one of the best, pass catchers league wide. New Clevelanders Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall, and Terrance Mitchell, along with second year safety Jabrill Peppers will have their work cut out for them. With Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rookie James Washington, it is a talented receiving corps. Watching Ward matchup against Brown will be something to keep an eye on in his first game in the NFL.
RECEIVERS CHEMISTRY WITH TYROD TAYLOR
The Browns have (another) new starting quarterback. The Browns starting two receivers are new to the team. How will Taylor play with Jarvis Landry and rookie Antonio Callaway? It seems that during the course of the offseason and during training camp, those two have worked with each other lots and have already started to form a close relationship.
*Some language in video is NSFW*
— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) March 23, 2018
How Taylor’s chemistry with the rest of the receivers will play a big part in how successful the Browns can be this season. Josh Gordon will be active and will get some playing time, so that will help out, not only Taylor, but the rest of the receivers, too, as Pittsburgh has to pay attention to Gordon.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Losing a future first-ballot hall of famer to retirement is not an easy thing to replace. The Browns drafted lineman Austin Corbett out of Nevada in hopes to fill the void left at left tackle. Joel Bitonio was slated to start at left tackle with Corbett starting at left guard. That has now changed since the release of the depth chart for the game. Bitonio will move over and start at left guard while undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison will get the nod at left tackle. It will be worth watching to see how Harrison holds up against Cameron Hayward, Stephon Tuitt, and T.J. Watt and to see how often the Browns run the ball to the left side.