Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of back-to-back victories against winning teams, there should be no underselling of the remaining significance of the next three games, three consecutive contests against divisional opponents with losing record. Two of the three are against the Cleveland Browns, starting on Thursday night, on the road.
The Browns are coming off of their first victory since Week Four when they took down the Baltimore Ravens who have surprisingly not lost a game since then. A four-game losing streak snapped by defeating the Buffalo Bills, who are 6-2 at the time and right in the thick of the AFC East with the New England Patriots.
Cleveland may have only won three games, but two have come against quality opponents. And Thursday games are notorious for favoring the home team. The Steelers are riding a four-game winning streak that has taken them over the .500 mark for the first time all season, but they need to keep winning.
And so they must be prepared in short order to go back on the road, where they have not been particularly successful so far this year—they’re just coming off a three-game homestand, mind you. Meanwhile, the Browns will be preparing for their visit.
Of particular focus for head coach Freddie Kitchens will be the Steelers’ defense, which in and of itself is an exciting reminder of the fact that Pittsburgh’s defense might, you know, actually be good. Opposing coaches are notoriously hyperbolic about how good their upcoming opponents are, but nevertheless, Kitchens was impressed.
“They are one of the best defenses in the National Football League”, he told reporters. “They have always been good on defense. They continue to hold that torch kind of, of playing good defense. They are sound. They know what they are doing. They are smart. They are tough. They are physical. There are not many weaknesses over there”.
Not many weakness in spite of the fact that they have lost two starters since the beginning of the season in Stephon Tuitt and Sean Davis. While the loss of Davis was more than supplemented by the acquisition of soon-to-be Pro Bowler Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tuitt’s loss is still felt in spite of the pressure the front four has been generating.
Cleveland’s offense has never really gotten itself going this year, ranked 26th in points per game, though they do have an efficient run game. They have only scored at least 20 points three times this season, unsurprisingly accounting for two of their three wins.