The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Cleveland Browns this afternoon for the second matchup of the year between the division rivals. The Steelers stormed ahead with three first-half touchdowns in the season opener before a 24-point second half from the Browns forced Pittsburgh to win it on a last-second field goal.
The defense only gave up three points to the Browns in the first half of that game, which came on the opening drive after tight end Jordan Cameron got behind Lawrence Timmons for a 41-yard gain to set up a field goal.
But the Browns pounded the defense for the first 20 minutes of the second half, scoring four times, including three touchdowns, to put up 24 points and tie the game before losing on a last-second field goal.
The Steelers defense has given up a score on the opening drive of every game this season. They haven’t fared much better in the early goings of the second halves of games either, and these slow starts have been putting them behind and forcing them to dig themselves out of holes. This Browns offense has shown that that will not be easy.
The defense has finally started to accumulate some turnovers over the past few weeks, but this Browns offense has only turned the ball over once in four games. Something has to give, and quite frankly, it’s probably the defense.
Cornerback Cortez Allen has played better over the course of the last two weeks, coming up with an interception in back-to-back weeks for the first time in his career.
Even his defense on the opening drive touchdown in the Tampa Bay game was solid. He’ll have to hold up well against the Browns’ munchkin attack and Brian Hoyer’s safe, decisive passes, however.
Brice McCain probably solidified his spot as the fifth defensive back after playing assignment-sound for the past two weeks, and topping it off with that pick six that gave the Steelers an eight-point lead a week ago. But let’s see how he does against the Browns’ running backs.
Speaking of which, the Steelers have been much more successful defending the run over the course of the last three weeks, but zone blocking teams have always given the defense more trouble. The Browns ran it down their throats in the season opener.
This will be a test to see how truly ‘fixed’ the run defense actually is. I can’t see the defense holding them to under 100 yards rushing.
Jason Worilds stayed put for the most part on the left side of the last game, and it garnered positive results in the pass rush. Let’s hope they stick with that plan.
James Harrison has over two weeks of football conditioning in him now, and he’s played 50 snaps thus far—but there’s still no need for him to start. Arthur Moats has played well, so expect to see him continue to get the bulk of the carries.
How many snaps will Stephon Tuitt play this week? The coaching staff paid him lip service to the media this week after being prompted by questioning based on his play in the last game, but I’m still waiting to see how much he gets on the field over the next few weeks.