This is probably the first of many games this year the importance of can’t be overstated, that’s why I’m watching. Plus, it’s the Steelers. Last week the Browns lost to the New York Jets 31-30 and the Steelers lost to the New England Patriots 17-14. The Browns host the Steelers Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium at 7:15 p.m. (EST) on Amazon Prime. After Sunday’s game, the Browns needed a short week to concentrate on fixing their defensive and special team’s problems. Can they achieve that goal? Probably in the defensive backfield, but the special teams are going to take a while. What am I watching this week?
Browns Offense Vs. Steelers Defense. The Pittsburgh defense is currently ranked 26th in the league allowing 404 yards a game, 276 yards passing, 129 yards rushing and 18.5 points a game. They are ranked 27th in pass defense, 22nd in rush defense and 27th in third-down defense. They’ve recorded seven sacks, one fumble recovery and five interceptions. The problem is all seven sacks, the fumble recovery and four of the interceptions came in game one versus the Bengals. The loss of T.J. Watt between game one and game two is the factor. Based on the game against the Bengals, the Steelers are second in the league in turnovers at +4. The top defensive players are LB Myles Jack, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, LB Alex Highsmith and DT Cameron Heyward. The Browns offense needs to win the turnover battle, control the clock with the run game and use WR Amari Cooper to draw Fitzpatrick away from the line of scrimmage. This will also free up Cleveland’s tight ends and create more opportunities to open up the screen game. Browns QB Jacoby Brissett averages 10 yards a throw and is converting first downs on 50% of his passes. The Steelers defense has given up over 10 yards a catch to five players over the first two games. How important is Watt? In the five games the Steelers have played without Watt, they are 0-5, they give up 5.5 more points a game, 50 yards more a game and lose two sacks a game.
Browns Defense Vs. Steelers Offense. The Steelers offense is currently ranked 30th in the league averaging 255 yards per game, 172 yards passing, 83 yards rushing and 18.5 points. I heard one local media member call the Steelers offense “a mess.” Pittsburgh does have weapons, RB Najee Harris, WR Diontae Johnson, WR Chase Claypool, WR George Pickens and TE Pat Freiermuth. But it all starts with the quarterback. Mitch Trubisky has thrown for 362 yards, a 59.2 completion percentage, two touchdowns, one interception and a QBR of 76.1. The Browns defense has to eliminate all communication problems. The Steelers would love to get their downfield passing game working and the Browns secondary needs to step up and play to expectations. They’ve done well stopping the run (73.5 yards after two games) and the Steelers offensive line is struggling in the run game. With the announcement that DE Jadeveon Clowney is out for this game, pressure will need to come from the interior of the Browns defensive line to help the exterior pass rush. The Browns linebackers are playing very well. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker are the number one and number three ranked linebackers in the league. They need to cover the Steeler tight ends and prevent Trubisky from using the screen pass to slow down the pass rush. Of Trubisky’s 42 completions, 33 have been for 10 yards or less. The Steelers are averaging 4.5 yards a catch, worse in the league. Force the Steelers offense into third and long yardage and harass the quarterback into making mistakes. Most importantly, keep everything in front of you.
I want to see the Browns offense continue what they were doing against the Jets, mix the running of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt with an accurate passing game. More screen passes would definitely help. On defense, make Trubisky beat you and play error-free. In the first two games, the Steelers were lining Claypool in the slot to help the run game. If they put Johnson in the slot and Claypool on the outside, then the Steelers are going to go deep. As for the special teams, an average game would make me happy right now. If the Browns win, they’ll have won five-straight Thursday night games tying the Chicago Bears. Everyone enjoy the game.