As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) this week’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa for tonight’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Their Run Game Is Much, Much Better.
This one is as obvious as it is necessary. James Conner and Ramon Foster returning coupled with a poor Browns’ run defense means the Steelers better be able to sustain a much more effective run game tonight. Can’t be one-dimensional with a young QB and expect to have offensive success in a lot of games. Gotta win on the ground.
2. They Defend Perimeter Runs
On the other side of the football, the Browns have to get their run game going in order to stay on schedule and have success. They are capable of attacking and winning the edge more than a lot of teams in football thanks to a top-tier back in Nick Chubb. Guys like Devin Bush can’t let #24 get the ball on the edge with space or he’s going to bust off a couple explosive runs.
3. They’re Not As Sloppy As Cleveland
Simple as that. Thursday night games are a mess for coaches and players. Hard to implement a gameplan, there’s barely any practice reps (especially for a road team, hope they like hotel ballroom walkthroughs), and players bodies are still hurting from last week. It’s easy to wear down and make mistakes, especially mental ones. The team who makes the fewer mistakes, less turnovers, penalties, drops, you get the idea, will win this one.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Odell Beckham Jr. Completes A Pass
Short week. Steelers haven’t had much time to prepare for Cleveland, even if they’re largely a familiar figure. Odell Beckham Jr., however, didn’t play against them in past matchups. He’s thrown two passes this year and given how well Pittsburgh’s defense has been conventionally, Freddie Kitchens could figure doing something unconventional is his best chance of creating a big play. Watch out for OBJ to throw a pass. If I wanted to call my shot, watch out for it on the first play of the game.
2. They Don’t Have An Answer For The Browns’ “Pony” Package
Again, gotta go back to a short week. Hunt is new to the lineup and got involved in plenty of “Pony” packages with he and Chubb on the field last week. Hard thing to prepare for when you don’t see it a lot, especially two ultra-talented backs like those two. Goes back to stopping their ground game and it’s a wrinkle you can bet the Browns will lean on.
3. Penalty Woes Creep Up Again
Similar to the “sloppy” comment I made above, the Steelers were far too penalized last week. Especially on offense and special teams. The former putting you behind the sticks, stalling drives, taking away points, while special teams gave ground you don’t want to gift the other team. Gotta avoid the flag.
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