Outside of the slip-up against the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been winning, but it hasn’t been pretty. They have, in fact, won five of their last six games, and six of the past eight. Even though they are only on a one-game winning streak, seen as a whole, they have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL over the course of the past month and a half, at least in terms of eking out victories.
It’s been enough to allow them to climb out of an 0-3 hole to start the season, one that ended up 1-4 before they went on a four-game winning streak, and now they look to continue another winning streak by seeking revenge against the Cleveland Browns, avenging their only loss on the season since October 6 when the Baltimore Ravens got the better of JuJu Smith-Schuster with an overtime fumble.
The Steelers have never scored more than 27 points in a game this season, and typically their more high-scoring games have included a defensive touchdown. They have three of those on the year, thanks to their greedy defense, with the second-most takeaways in the NFL.
But the locker room isn’t concerned with how they get their wins, or what they look like, as long as they continue to get them. Style points “never matter”, Cameron Heyward told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’re not in the BCS or college playoff. We’re trying to win games”.
And toward that goal, head coach Mike Tomlin made the decision that they would turn, at least temporarily, to Devlin Hodges at quarterback while Mason Rudolph works through his struggles. The second-year man had turned the ball over five times in his past six quarters of action before Tomlin yanked him in favor of the rookie in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Defensively, there haven’t been many changes. Most everything has been set in its place. The only real significant development on that side of the ball is perhaps the increased usage of the dime defense in recent weeks, but I’m not sure it will be called for this time around.
The Cleveland Browns, as much as they value their passing game, also greatly respect their rushing efforts. They have a top-10 rushing game that has been pretty consistent all year. They have only put up fewer than 100 yards three times, and have topped 147 yards or more in four of the past six.
Getting a win over Cleveland, however, is the only priority, especially in light of the fact that neither Rudolph nor Garrett will be on the field. This should be a battle against two focused teams understanding the opportunity that lies in front of them.