By Rick Henneman
The 2016 NFL season is upon us. Fantasy drafts are taking place around the Valley and across the country. Kitchens are being stocked with all of the Sunday staples, and man caves are about to be filled with fanatics. Speculation and debate are at an all-time high, especially for local favorites the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 2015 season couldn’t have ended more differently for these two teams. The Browns finished with a 3-13 record, while the Steelers finished the season 10-6 and advanced to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in the Divisional round.
The offseason was far from boring for both teams. A new front office and coaching staff joined the Browns, pairing the old-school coaching style of Hue Jackson with the analytical mind of Sashi Brown, Vice President of Football Operations. Former NFL leading wide receiver, Josh Gordon was reinstated with a four-game suspension by the league after violating its substance abuse policy. Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell was suspended for three games for missing a series of drug tests.
Taking all of this into account, numerous NFL reporters and insiders have weighed in on the Browns and Steelers upcoming season.
Jeremy Fowler, who covers the Steelers for ESPN, predicted that Pittsburgh will finish this season 11-5 saying that ‘overall this team is better positioned to take ownership of the AFC North than a year ago.’
Pat McManamon, who covers the Browns for ESPN, said that ‘expectations for the 2016 Cleveland Browns may be at an all-time low, with good reason.’ McManamon predicted that Cleveland will end with a record of 1-15.
Mike Yourstowsky, Sophomore sports broadcasting student and Browns fan, is slightly more positive about his team and spoke highly of the new coach.
“I expect they will go 3-13, but will compete in a lot of close games,” Yourstowsky said. “Hue Jackson will coach a team that will not give up at halftime like in years past. No spots are guaranteed.”
Yourstowsky said he is looking forward to the fifth game of the season when Josh Gordon will be back in the fray.
“Gordon is a huge bonus and a confidence booster, but guys need to step up while he is gone,” he said. “[The Steelers] will have a typical Steelers season with an explosive offense. They will probably compete for the division title and a playoff spot.”
Senior psychology major Seth Gaines does not have as positive of an outlook for the Steelers 2016 season.
“I think we are going to be, at best, 10-6. The defense isn’t where it needs to be,” Gaines said.
Gaines said he is tired of Le’Veon Bell’s behavior in his professional career following his second suspension.
“I am absolutely fed up,” Gaines said. “I’m not sure if I want him around next year if I can’t trust him to be on the field.”
Gaines expects that the Browns will finish the season 5-11.
The Browns and Steelers will begin their 2016 season on Sept. 11 and will face each other on Nov. 20 and Jan. 1.