No one likes playing on a short week. For a young Pittsburgh Steelers’ team, one still finding its footing offensively, that could be especially troublesome. Cam Heyward knows they can’t be the team who slips up in what figures to be a close AFC North battle versus Cleveland.
“It comes down to who is going to execute on a short week,” Heyward told reporters after Tuesday’s practice via the team site. “The gameplan is a little more simple. Just comes down to execution and who makes the fatal errors that cost them the game.”
Pittsburgh nor Cleveland haven’t done particularly well in taking care of the football. The Browns have turned the ball over 17 times, fifth most in the NFL. The Steelers? Not much better, giving it away 13 times, including at least once in their last 16 games, the NFL’s longest active streak.
In their two meetings last season, Pittsburgh turned the ball over a whopping eight times, including six in the 2018 opener that ended in an ugly 21-21 tie. The Browns have shown more ball security recently, no turnovers their last two games, so the Steelers’ opportunistic defense will have their work cut out for them again.
Whichever team plays less sloppy football will win this game. Not only when it comes to turnovers but a host of other categories. Fewer drops, penalties, mental mistakes, third down and red zone play. On a short week, it’s hard to prepare, putting the focus on doing what you do well and hoping that’s enough to outlast your opponent.
And there’s every reason to expect this game to be close. Five of the ten Thursday night games have been decided by a touchdown or less .
The reality is both teams have to deal with the short week and the challenges, physically and mentally, that come with it.
“We’re both dealing with it. It’s not like the scales tipped either way,” Heyward said. “Cleveland’s preparing for us, we’re preparing for them. It’s good on good.”
In one respect, playing the Browns on a short week is helpful. Though this is the first meeting this season, they’re a known opponent. Same head coach as the second meeting last season. Same quarterback. Same running back. Same key cogs defensively. You can get away with a little less preparation because the players know who they’re going up against, especially the veterans. The rookies and new faces have to get on board, that’ll be a challenge, but one that isn’t unique to one team in this matchup.