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Keys to Victory: What we're watching in Pittsburgh

  1. The Browns travel to Pittsburgh this weekend hoping to avoid the franchise's first winless season. In his final pep talk of 2017, head coach Hue Jackson said he won't dwell too much on that possibility.

"We all hope to be beyond that by this point. We're not. So that within itself is disappointing," he said Friday. "I think to keep talking about it, what does that do? I don't think it does anything for our football team."

  1. DeShone Kizer's rookie season comes full circle this weekend against the Steelers. After an encouraging debut against Pittsburgh in the opener, Kizer hopes to end a year of highs and lows on a high note.

"I've learned quite a bit since then," Kizer said, referencing that 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh back in September. "Hopefully I can apply some of the tools that we have now to that performance and hopefully edge one out over a really good team."

Kizer struggled in Sunday's loss to the Bears, throwing two interceptions. While the former Notre Dame star and second-round NFL Draft pick has showed promise, he leads the NFL with 19 interceptions.

  1. Wide receiver Josh Gordon could be matched up against a former teammate and friend in Joe Haden, who signed with the Steelers shortly after the Browns released the cornerback back in September.

"My first couple years here, he helped bring me along and we helped each other grow I think as players more than anything just on the practice field," Gordon said, "figuring out as a younger player how to develop myself when it came to the practice field, the amount of effort it's going to take to get open on a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. He gave me the best look at practice that I've ever seen." The pair both earned nods to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and were teammates from 2012 to 2014 before Gordon was suspended indefinitely.

  1. The Browns are expecting the Steelers to play their starters Sunday despite clinching a first-round playoff bye last week. "If they surprise us and don't play them, then they don't play them," Jackson said, "but I think we have to expect that they are going to put their best people out there." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was non-committal earlier this week when asked whether he'd rest players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and other key members of Pittsburgh's roster. The Steelers can earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a win over Cleveland and Patriots loss to the Jets.
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