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 team is looking to break one trend today, while continuing another. The Steelers won their last game, but they have yet to win or lose consecutive games yet this year. Despite winning three games, they’re hoping they can start stacking wins with this game.
Meanwhile, the offense has alternated poor and strong performances on the road, scoring six, 30, and 10 points away from home so far in three games. The Steelers put up 30 against this defense at home; can they do it on the road?
Even after taking four sacks in the last game, the pass protection has improved since the first week of the season. But it’s been a tougher task on the road than at home. Ben Roethlisberger needs to do a better job of helping his linemen out this time around and show a greater willingness to stay out of sacks.
The Browns are banged up on the defensive front, with at least one, and possibly two starters out up the middle. That sounds to me like a lot of 12 and 21 personnel packages and a double dose of Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
Then again, Joe Haden is banged up and may not play either—and even if he does, that’s never stopped Antonio Brown from finding success. Still, I think the injuries up front should dictate a more balanced attack than we’ve seen.
As the weeks go by, we are starting to see Mike Munchak’s group getting out in space and on the move with greater frequency. Even the tackles are running fold blocks and getting downfield to clear out second-level defenders. That extra movement should be a good counter to the Browns’ front seven.
Roethlisberger got just about everybody involved in the passing game last week, with four different players recording their first reception of the season. But poor Matt Spaeth was left out, and is the only skill position player left on the roster without a catch. Is this the game he gets rid of the goose egg?
Starting wide receiver Markus Wheaton dropped an arcing pass down the field on third down on the Steelers’ opening drive last week, and Roethlisberger didn’t go back to him for a while. He only received one more target, which he did bring in.
He also missed on a few easy blocks later on after that catch, and it’s been suggested that the only thing holding him back is his own mind. Was he too focused on his first drop of the season last week? The Steelers should get him going early.
Roethlisberger and the coaching staff went out on a limb to get Brown his fifth catch last week and extend a streak that he and the team care about an awful lot more than everybody else. That showed how much he means to this team, but it also drew plenty of ire during the week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get him a few early throws as well to keep him on pace in this game.