If all of the pregame expectations come to fruition, Sundays game at Heinz Field between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns will feature a matchup between quarterbacks Landry Jones and Johnny Manziel. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, however, sees the possible outcome of the game revolving more around the two team’s running game more than the play of the two young quarterbacks.
“It’s going to be about the run game on both sides,” Tomlin told Bob Labriola on Saturday during his weekly interview. “It really is. Our ability to run the ball, our ability to stop the run. We weren’t able to stop the run against them a year ago. You can say they’re not effectively running the ball this year largely, but they didn’t effectively run the ball largely last year. But they ran the ball effective against us. We have to stop the run. We have to have balance on offense, and balance is being on schedule. DeAngelo Williams has to do the job for us, and we have to open run lanes for him.”
The last time the Steelers and the Browns played, Cleveland beat Pittsburgh 31-10 and they did so by only completing only 8 total passes in the game for 217 yards. The Browns were able to do that because the Steelers defense gave up 158 yards on the ground to running backs Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Travis Benjamin. Those three players combined to carry the football a whopping 38 times.
While Tate is no longer in Cleveland, rookie running back Duke Johnson is and he enters Sunday’s game having already registered 179 yards on 59 rushes. Crowell, on the other hand, leads the Browns in rushing currently with 333 yards on his 101 carries, so we can probably expect to see both he and Johnson share the running game duties Sunday against the Steelers.
Last week in their win over the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers defense gave up 139 total yards rushing with running back Latavius Murray being responsible for 96 of them. Additionally, most of his yards came against the Steelers nickel defense. Because of that, one would think that the Browns will use a lot of 11 personnel Sunday against the Steelers in order to spread their defense out and keep nose tackles Steve McLendon and Daniel McCullers off of the field.
As far the Steelers running game goes, running back DeAngelo Williams is expected to have success Sunday against a Browns defense that currently ranks last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (147.6). Williams, however, is currently nursing an inflamed foot after carrying the football 27 times last Sunday against the Raiders.