The bye week is finally over and the Pittsburgh Steelers are just one more day away from resuming their 2018 season against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers will welcome the Browns into Heinz Field and will look to avenge their season opening tie against Cleveland. While the statistical odds for another tie are dim, here are all the other numbers that will factor into Sunday’s game for the Steelers.
26.4 – Here’s a stat that may not be flashy but could certainly play an importance in Sunday’s game. The Browns are not seeing opposing returners return the ball often on kickoffs but when they do, they have burnt a hole through the Browns’ kick coverage team. The Browns’ special teams unit is allowing 26.4 yards per kickoff return, fifth worst in the NFL. Why does this matter? Well, if return man Ryan Switzer can create a big return, it could make a difference in the battle for hidden yardage and field position. The Steelers’ average drive start is the 24.9 yard line, worst in the NFL, they could use a big return or two to ease up the distance needed to travel for their offense.
32.1 – The Browns’ third down offense has been nothing short of atrocious. Under former Steelers’ offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Browns have converted just 32.1% of their third down attempts this season. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield can only be given so much of the blame as he has performed adequately on third downs, completing 61.4% of his passes but ultimately only seeing 22 of his 57 attempted passes move the chains. Baker has also been sacked an additional seven times on third down, perhaps proving that the rookie quarterback has just not been put in the right position schematically to succeed on third down.
75.0 – If you are box score scouting, the Browns’ pass defense seems to have more holes than swiss cheese, allowing 278.9 passing yards per game. Though the Browns are allowing a ton of yardage through the air, they hold claim to one of the best secondaries in the NFL so far this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 75.0 against the Browns, worst in the entire NFL. Not only that, the Browns have recorded 11 interceptions, also the most in the NFL and are allowing just seven yards per pass attempt. Quarterbacks are being forced to earn every single yard against the stingy Cleveland defense.
134.7 – While the Browns’ secondary may appear like swiss cheese, their run defense looks and acts like swiss cheese, allowing opposing running backs to barrel through them consistently. The Browns have allowed 134.7 rushing yards per game, 28th most in the NFL and will be coming up against the red-hot James Conner this Sunday. Conner has rushed for a combined 221 yards over his last two games, his first 100-yard performances since his week one debut against the Browns. The second year running back put himself on the map with a 135-yard rushing performance against the Browns in the opener and this Sunday, he will be making sure they have not forgotten about him.
911 – If the Browns could call 911 against Steelers’ receiver Antonio Brown, I am sure they would because the veteran receiver has consistently held the Browns’ secondary hostage. Over his last seven games against Cleveland, Brown has recorded 911 yards and is averaging 130 yards per game. Five out of these seven games saw Brown surpass 100 yards receiving and twice he has succeeded 180 receiving yards. The veteran wideout has been a magnet for the football, recording a catch percentage of over 70% in six of his last seven games against Cleveland. With the Wi-Fi increasing in strength between Big Ben and Brown, look for him to have another big game against the AFC North basement dwellers.