COMMENTARY | They say misery loves company, and the eternally struggling Cleveland Browns have found an unlikely companion in the AFC North basement two weeks into the 2013 NFL season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a decade-long run as one of the best teams in the AFC, the Steelers' fall from grace began last season. After a 6-3 start to 2012, Pittsburgh went just 2-5 down the stretch to finish the year at 8-8. Unfortunately, for Steelers fans used to division titles and playoff berths, 2012 looks like it could have just been a prelude to what is shaping up to be a rough 2013 campaign in the Steel City.
An 0-2 start to the season has Pittsburgh faithful rightfully worrying about a team that had a plethora of question marks entering 2013 and quite honestly, did very little to address those issues.
Of course, the Browns are also 0-2 as well, and they have their own issues to deal with as they look to at least be competitive this fall. Still, Cleveland fans do have one thing that they can hang their hats on thus far this season -- the Browns have been a better team than the Steelers in 2013, and these are three reasons why:
Quality of Competition
The Browns two losses have come at the hands of the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. No one really knew what Miami would be capable of in 2013, but they are looking pretty good so far. They are now 2-0 after a hard-fought 24-20 road win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2. As for the Ravens loss, the Browns did remain within one score of the reigning Super Bowl champions on the road for the entire 60 minutes -- there's no shame in that.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have fallen to the Tennessee Titans and the Cincinnati Bengals. Pittsburgh's 20-10 loss to the Bengals in a Monday night game on the road wasn't really a surprise, as Cincinnati has the potential to be one of the better teams in the AFC this fall. The same cannot be said about Pittsburgh's Week 1 loss to the Titans at home. It's tough to imagine Tennessee being in the hunt for a playoff spot come December.
Cleveland Has A Better Defense
In complete fairness, the defensive units of the Steelers and Browns have done more than their fair share to keep their respective teams within striking distance of opponents this season. Both units have been ridiculously overworked over the first two games, with Cleveland's defense being on the field for 136 plays, and Pittsburgh's for 142.
Still, Pittsburgh's defense in 2013 has been a far cry from Steeler defensive units of years past. After two games, Pittsburgh has just one quarterback sack, and they have yet to cause a turnover this season.
The Browns defense has been a little more respectable, sacking the quarterback six times and generating two turnovers so far in 2013. Cleveland has been excellent against the run, allowing just 59.5 rushing yards per game over the first two weeks.
The Pittsburgh Running Game Is Nonexistent
This is not to say that the Browns are exactly running at will against teams in 2013, because they are most definitely not. The Browns are averaging 56 yards per game on the ground after two games, although that number is little skewed due to the Browns' refusal to rush the football in the loss the Miami. Cleveland is averaging 3.4 yards per carry in 2013, a number that certainly needs to be improved upon going forward.
Pittsburgh, though, would envy the rushing numbers the Browns currently have. The Steelers have just 75 yards rushing after the first two weeks -- not good news for a team that was woeful on the ground in 2012. Pittsburgh's 2.4 yards per carry is currently the second worst mark in the NFL.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Cleveland Browns
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- the Browns