The Steelers had a great game last week from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, there are some concerns. Before we get into that, let’s focus on the positives.
For one, a late Wentz turnover ended up being the difference, so that was a good guess on our part. Closing out narrow games is something the Steelers have done very well all season.
A look back at Steelers vs Eagles
To be fair, the Steelers were a missed field goal away from blowing a 31-14 lead, so it’s not a good sign the Steelers let a guy like Travis Fulgham completely gouge them all day. Chase Claypool may be a star in the making.
Coming out of college, there was a lot of speculation Claypool could be moved to tight end. Lucky for him, the Steelers didn’t agree with that sentiment. Claypool is a tall, physical, fast (4.4 speed) weapon who is a mismatch for opposing DBs and safeties.
Courtesy of an early exit from Diontae Johnson, Claypool absorbed Johnson’s snaps and turned them into over 120 yards and four total touchdowns. With Claypool emerging, Dionte Johnson being explosive, and Juju being the designated contested balls guy, this Pittsburgh offense looks promising. They have the potential to have one of the most dynamic receiving corps in football and it’s blossoming before our eyes.
The Browns are a pretty good football team. It took a few weeks for everyone to take them seriously, especially after the beating they took Week 1. Now, the Browns are coming off an impressive win against the solid Colts. The Browns are pretty amazing against the run (87 YPG), ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.
However, the Browns are 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game at 296. Offensively, the Browns feature one of the league’s best offensive lines, the best rushing attack, and the 29th best passing attack.
Despite the strong game against the Eagles, the Steelers are just 19th in passing yards and 8th in rushing yards per game. Defensively, the Steelers are 15th against the pass, 2nd against the run, and 6th in points allowed. It’s a solid unit overall, but not quite the elite group they were in 2019.
Steelers vs Browns Preview
To say this game is an important one for the division would be a gross understatement. As of now, the Steelers are atop the division at 4-0, with both the Ravens and Browns a close second at 4-1. We already highlighted the offense and defense of the Browns, so let’s look at what the Steelers need to do to best exploit them.
The Steelers aren’t likely going to get a lot accomplished on the ground, but that’s not going to stop the Steelers from trying to offset the ferocious Browns pass rush. Keeping the Browns pass rush in check will be a priority for the Steelers.
Last week, the Steelers did a good job with the Eagles pass rush, allowing only one sack. This week, the Browns feature one of the league’s best pass rush units.
The Steelers are going to have to use more quick screens and creative end-arounds like they did a week ago. In last week’s game, Chase Claypool and Ray-Ray McCloud accounted for five carries and 69 yards while the other Steelers backs accounted for 69 total rushing yards. It just goes to show how critical it is to keep the defense off-balance.
Defensively, the Steelers are going to have to show numbers on blitzes, because breakdowns in coverage against a base defense with no blitz aren’t going to work well against this stout Browns line. If not bringing numbers, bringing corners and safeties into blitz is something I expect to see a decent amount of.
The Steelers run defense is stout, but they are going to have to stay disciplined. Last week, Miles Sanders reeled off a 74-yard touchdown run and only finished with 80 rushing yards. It’s also worth noting the big run came on a third and nine draw. If the Steelers can avoid the big runs, they’re set up well.
I expect this game to be similar to the Eagles game a week ago. The rushing battle will be largely bogged down on both sides, so I expect much of this game to depend on who is more effective through the air. Odell’s status up in the air for Sunday, and Baker Mayfield probably isn’t as capable making tight throws as Wentz was a week ago.
Baker’s status is also up in the air for the game, but you can expect him to give it a go. I think the game has a wide array of possible scripts. More than any other game this week, this one could stay close or even snowball.
I expect this to be more of a stable start for Cleveland, but when Pittsburgh breaks through and takes a lead, the Browns won’t be able to rely on their passing attack to stay in this one late. I like the Steelers to take control late.
Final Score: Steelers 30 Browns 20