The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fifth regular season game of 2020 Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns as they look to notch their fifth consecutive win. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with a home win against the Browns and move to 5-0 on the season.
Sack Myles – The Steelers offensive line will have their hands full on Sunday with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett coming to Heinz Field. Garrett has been a monster again this season as a pass rusher and already had six sacks and 10 quarterback hits in five games. He also has forced three fumbles so far this season and recovered two. Garrett will move and down the line on Sunday against the Steelers so that means Steelers tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Chukwuma Okorafor will both get plenty of pass protection snaps against him. Garrett’s going to win a few reps on Sunday and hopefully quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have the football long gone on those particular plays. Garrett can change a game in a hurry with the way he rushes the passer. The Steelers must provide occasional help to their tackles on Sunday in the form of a chipping tight end or running back. The quieter that Garrett is on Sunday, the better the chance the Steelers will have at winning the game.
Hunt The Running Game – While the Browns won’t have starting running back Nick Chubb for their Sunday road game against the Steelers they will have two very adequate backup running backs to use at Heinz Field in the form of Kareen Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson. The Browns are averaging a league-best 188 rush yards per game rushing entering Week 6 of the season and with quarterback Baker Mayfield still dealing with some sire ribs heading into Sundays game, you can bet Cleveland hopes to be able to let him handoff to the running backs most of the game. The Browns offensive line is coached by Bill Callahan and he has quickly refined the unit’s zone and man blocking schemes. The Browns will run inside and outside, and their offense uses a lot of motion at the snap of the football as well to keep opposing defenses honest. The Steelers run defense has been great so far this season and would be No. 1 overall entering Week 6 if not for allowing a long 74- yard rushing touchdown to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. If the Steelers defense can take away the Browns successful running game away early, Mayfield will have to pass more and that means more chances for him to make mistakes while taking a few hard hits on his hurting body.
Safely Attack The Safeties – Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has confirmed that second-year safety Sheldrick Redwine will start at the strong spot on Sunday against the Steelers with Karl Joseph and Ronnie Harrison both ruled out for the contest at Heinz Field because of injuries. While Redwine played okay in his first 2020 action last Sunday, he’s still very inexperienced and was buried on the depth chart prior to injuries happening last weekend. The Browns starting free safety against the Steelers will be veteran Andrew Sendejo, whose best football is way behind him. The Steelers offense should have a plan in place to attack both Sendejo and Redwine in coverage. One of the two is bound to give up a big play or two on Sunday at Heinz Field. The Browns defensive strength is their pass rush, and their weakest part is their secondary.
Improve Important Third Of The Game – The Steelers defense has been awful so far this season on third downs. In fact, the unit has allowed a 50% conversion rate so far this season and that’s made worse by the fact that exactly half of the 28 conversions have come with opposing offenses needing 7 or more yards. while the Browns offense enters Sunday’s game having converted 45.2% of all third down opportunities, Mayfield has just converted 8 of 23 third downs via a pass when the offense has needed 7 or more yards. The Steelers defense must start doing a better job of getting off the field on third downs starting on Sunday and especially whenever the Browns need 7 of more yards to go. Against the Eagles last Sunday, the Steelers defense allowed 10 consecutive third downs to be converted against them. The Browns offense wants to be able to run the football on Sunday and thus that will result in keeping Roethlisberger off the field as much as possible. If that unit converts at high rate on third downs on Sunday, it is hard to imagine the Steelers winning.
Put Motion Passing Game In Motion – The Steelers offense continues to work with motion at the snap of the football with most of those plays being runs in their first four games. Against the Browns on Sunday, it’s time to make a concerted effort to build on what’s already on tape when it comes to motion and that includes making a concerted effort to throw in those instances. A wheel route or deep pass concept off motion at the snap of the football with even play-action should be in order for Sunday against the Browns defense. The Steelers have some speed to burn in the form of running back Anthony McFarland Jr. and wide receiver Ray-Ray-McCloud. That speed must also be respected whenever those players are in motion at the snap of the football.