In battle between two Cleveland Browns opponents, Titans look very beatable while Steelers look like a contender

Pete Smith

Sunday Night Football featured the dress rehearsal for two teams the Cleveland Browns will face a total of three times during the 2019 season. The Tennessee Titans, who the Browns open with this year, looked awful, incapable of protecting their quarterback and struggled to cover anyone on defense. 

When asked about the performance of Marcus Mariota, which included surrendering a safety, head coach Mike Vrabel said, "We can't protect for him." For the Browns defensive line featuring Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, that might as well be blood in the water.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a well oiled machine on both sides of the ball. Their defensive line anchored by Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt was dominant, beating up both Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill. They were virtually unblockable and for the Browns, who are coming off of a questionable performance up front against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that is definitely a concern.

Ben Roethlisberger and the offense went right down the field for a pair of touchdowns without a hint that they missed Antonio Brown or Jesse James. The performance served as a reminder that while the Browns have aspirations to take over the division, they have to earn it by beating the Steelers.

The Browns have been able to find success against the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, albeit inconsistently with the Ravens, but they've proven they can beat them. The Steelers are the dragon the Browns need to slay if they are going to enjoy any consistent success. Last year, they tied them in the first matchup and lost the second, meaning the Browns haven't beaten the Steelers since 2014.

The good news, if there is good news when it comes to the Steelers is the Browns won't see them until week 11, so they'll hopefully be able to come together and be fully formed and prepared to play them. Unfortunately, the two teams play twice in a three week period, which could define the season both sides.

The Titans probably aren't as bad as they showed, but certainly look like a very winnable game for the Browns. The Steelers, meanwhile, could be every bit as good as they showed. They have some questions in the secondary, but they are a dangerous team and this game may have shown just how competitive the AFC North could be, save for Cincinnati Bengals, who are genuinely terrible.

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