Steelers Vs Browns X Factor: Offensive Tackles

Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva

As we will do every Saturday to get you ready for the week’s game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. What will make or break the Pittsburgh Steelers during Sunday’s AFC North rematch versus the Cleveland Browns.

X Factor: The Offensive Tackles

And to be honest, it’s difficult to choose someone other than these two – Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler. The Browns’ best asset is their pass rush. With 19 sacks on the season, it’s created a ton of disruption, and let their aggressive secondary capitalize. Just let Ben Roethlisberger tell it.

“The secondary, they catch the ball. Defenders, we always joke, they can’t catch. But they catch the ball. Don’t just bat it down. They make plays.”

That’s the one thing about this Browns’ team that hasn’t changed since their Week One game. Villanueva is going to be seeing plenty of Myles Garrett and Feiler will be tested again, filling in for the injured Marcus Gilbert.

Like we wrote in our defensive scouting report, Cleveland has begun to move Garrett around. He’s not *just* the RDE, like he was last year, and Villanueva isn’t going to see him on every snap. He’ll line up all over the defensive line, interior and at LDE.

Here he is lined up as the three tech.

And here he is as the LDE, toasting the right tackle inside as the Chargers’ line slides away from him for some dumb reason.

Given Gilbert’s absence, I’m expecting the Browns to get Garrett on Feiler, undeniably the better matchup, often. But it’s not just about one guy. They have a slew of talented pass rushers and throw enough at you schematically to make life difficult. The Steelers are capable of handling it, they’ve done it well all year long and no one gets a unit better prepared than Mike Munchak, but it’s still imperative that it happens. Can’t have Roethlisberger get pressured and make mistakes like he did in the opener, practically the only reason why that game ended in a tie.

Pittsburgh’s o-line is playing one of its best stretches ever. Roethlisberger has been sacked once over the last three weeks. If they can mark a clean sheet, or even allow just one sack, the Steelers should win those one by a couple scores.

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