'Resting' Steelers Could Help Browns Avoid 0-16 as Spread Plummets

Matthew Jordan

Friday, December 29, 2017 3:12 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 3:12 PM UTC

One of the biggest mismatches of Week 17 in the NFL looked to be Cleveland at Pittsburgh, but the Browns could actually avoid infamy thanks to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Interesting decision by Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. His team is the AFC North champion and will be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs, thus assuring a first-round bye. However, there exists an outside shot at the No. 1: Pittsburgh would need to beat visiting Cleveland on Sunday and the New York Jets would have to stun the Patriots in New England (the two games start simultaneously).

Tomlin obviously doesn’t think a Bryce Petty-led Jets team is going to Gillette Stadium and winning as a 15-point NFL betting underdog. So Tomlin has decided to rest his two offensive stars vs. Cleveland in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell – the NFL’s best receiver, Antonio Brown, already was ruled out due to his partially torn calf muscle. Landry Jones will start for Big Ben.

That decision by Tomlin means a few things:

  • Bell won’t win the NFL rushing title; he’s third with 1,291 yards. The Rams’ Todd Gurley leads with 1,305, but Gurley also will sit Week 17.
  • Roethlisberger won’t win his second passing yardage title. He has thrown for 4,251 yards, second to Tom Brady’s 4,387.
  • The line has changed from Steelers -14 to -7. The Browns have covered a league-low three games in 2017, although one was in Week 1 against Pittsburgh.

But the biggest fallout from this decision – and Tomlin probably rests other starters as well -- could be that the sad-sack Browns, who are 1-30 the past two seasons, could avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to finish 0-16. Cleveland will be playing all its starters and like this game is the Super Bowl to avoid that embarrassment. Shoot, a win might even justify ownership bringing back coach Hue Jackson next season.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

Yeah, we HAVE to see this - Hue Jackson will swim in the lake as promised, and do it for charity: 'I gotta back it up' pic.twitter.com/6G1lQtftx6

— clevelanddotcom (@clevelanddotcom) December 27, 2017

Jackson vowed at the end of last season that if the Browns went 1-15 again, people could find him "swimming in (Lake Erie)." On Wednesday, Jackson said he would honor that promise: "Obviously, I've got to get wet. I get it. I can pick a day and get everyone out there, we'll all be in swimsuits and trunks and snorkels and all that. I made the statement. I got to back it up. That's the type of person I am, so that's what we have to do."

Technically, Jackson could avoid jumping in the lake should Cleveland lose but said he would still follow through. He said he will make it an event that will benefit the Hue Jackson Foundation, which supports efforts to combat human trafficking in Cleveland.

Some Browns fans are planning a parade for Jan. 7 should the team finish 0-16:

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

The official paperwork was filed this morning with the @CityofCleveland!! The @Browns Perfect Season Parade (0-16) moves on!! #GPODAWUND pic.twitter.com/NoDBUvF7R2

— McNeil (@Reflog_18) November 11, 2016

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