It’s the Browns vs. the Steelers, enough said. Last week the Browns lost a heart breaker to the Packers and the Steelers lost to my new second favorite team, (just kidding) the Chiefs. On Monday night the Cleveland Browns will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hienz Field. It will most likely be QB Ben Roethlisberger’s last regular season home game and if two games go the Browns way on Sunday, the Browns playoff hopes will stay alive. So, what am I watching?
Browns Defense Vs. Steelers Offense. Pittsburg is ranked 22nd in total offense, averaging 229 yards passing, 88 yards rushing and 20.1 points a game. The Steelers are led by Browns killer QB Ben Roethlisberger who has passed for 3373 yards, 20 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. However, he has been sacked 35 times. Pittsburgh is led in rushing by rookie RB Najee Harris (984 yards) and in receiving by WR Diontae Johnson (1079 yards). The Steeler offense has not scored a first half touchdown in the last five games and have lost four of their last six games. Pittsburgh relies on the aggressiveness of their quarterback and their short passing game. The Browns defense will have to swarm to the ball and tackle. Currently, the Cleveland defense is eight against the run and tenth against the pass. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns have the ninth-highest tackling grade (68.4) in the NFL. They have only missed 82 tackles all year, which is tied for eighth. To take advantage of Roethlisberger’s aggressiveness, the Browns need use pressure and speed. The whole Browns defense, which is the healthiest it’s been in about a month, are the players to watch.
Browns Offense Vs. Steelers Defense. Pittsburgh is ranked 26th in total defense allowing 226 yards passing, 143 yards rushing and 24.7 points per game. They have allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL (2141 yards), the highest yards per catch (4.8) and the most 20+ yard runs. The Steelers defense is fourth in the NFL in sacks (43), with LB T.J. Watt (17.5) and DE Cameron Hayward (8) leading the way. As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh has lost four of their last six games. In those loses their defense gave up 41 to the Chargers, 41 to the Bengals, 36 to the Vikings and 36 to the Chiefs. The Browns offense is based on the pass setting up the run. Hopefully, head coach Kevin Stefanski will use screen passes to RB Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and short passes to TE Austin Hooper, TE Harrison Bryant and WR Jarvis Landry. This will help keep the pressure off of QB Baker Mayfield. Last week against the Packers, the Browns had success running plays to the right side to set up big plays to the left. I expect the same this week. Finally, I think the Browns will run the ball more than usual with Hunt back on the field. He gives this offense great versatility.
The Browns must win the turnover battle this week. They have 10 turnovers in the last five games. When the Steelers lose the turnover battle this year, they ‘re 0-5, as opposed to 7-2 when they win. Right now, the best route to the playoffs for the Browns is by winning the AFC North. To do that, the Chiefs need to beat the Bengals and the Rams need to beat the Ravens. For the Browns to make the playoffs as a wildcard team, they need the Titans to beat the Dolphins, the Broncos to beat the Chargers and the Colts to beat the Raiders as well. The most important game is the Bengals game. If the Chiefs win, the Browns still have hope going into Monday night. Everyone enjoy the games.