As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) tonight’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 6 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They Contain Cleveland’s Run Game
Battle of best on best today. Browns have the best rushing attack while the Steelers have the league’s #2 run defense. Goals are pretty clear. Cleveland needs to stay on schedule, rip off big gains on the ground, while Pittsburgh needs to make the opposition one-dimensional just as they have virtually every game this season. I like the Steelers’ odds of winning out here, they’re a physical, fundamentally sound bunch, but whoever wins the trenches probably wins this game.
2. Alejandro Villanueva’s Hot Streak Continues
Contrary to what other sites might indicate, we’ve charted Alejandro Villanueva for zero sacks allowed over the first four games of the season. He’ll largely be facing off against Myles Garrett, second in football with six sacks and responsible for half of the 12 the Browns’ pass rush has in 2020. Garrett has certainly bested Villanueva in moments before – he does that to virtually every tackle he faces – but this should be a great matchup. Villanueva better bring his A game.
3. Ray-Ray Goes Cray-Cray
Last week, the Browns gave up a 101 yard kick return touchdown to the Colts’ Isaiah Rodgers last week, allowing Indy to get back into the game. That return influences the overall numbers but on the season, Cleveland’s giving up 34.6 yards per kick return; in Week Two, Cincy’s Brandon Wilson had returns of 42 and 45 yards.
Ray-Ray McCloud has been close to breaking a monster kick return several times this season. If there’s a week to get past the 50, and hopefully into the end zone, this might be it. He’ll have a full slate of return duty, taking over for Diontae Johnson in the punt game.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Browns Get Tricky And Pittsburgh’s Not Ready
Cleveland’s dug into their bag of tricks this season. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both have attempted – and completed – passes this season, including Landry throwing a dime to OBJ for a 37 yard score earlier this season. Don’t be surprised if Kevin Stefanski has some surprises for the Steelers in his first matchup of this rivalry, something to tip the scales in Cleveland’s favor. Watch out for it on the first drive or coming out of a timeout/two-minute warning.
2. Steelers’ Defense Can’t Handle The Boot
Few teams use playaction as often or as effectively as the Browns. They love getting Mayfield out of the pocket, even to his left, unusual for teams with right-handed quarterbacks. It makes keeping Mayfield in the pocket naturally tough to do, ideally you can dial up some well-time Mike Hilton blitzes, but Mayfield is dangerous on the move. Receivers out-leverage DBs, Mayfield can scramble (though he’s playing with injured ribs), and tight ends can leak out the backside. Lot that has to be accounted for.
3. Offensive Giveaways Resume
One stat I’ve neglected to mention throughout the week. The Browns’ defense leads the league in takeaways with 12 of them, including a whopping seven forced fumbles. That’s given them a +6 turnover differential, tied for second best in football. Pittsburgh’s won their last two games in part because of how well they’ve taken care of the football; an Eric Ebron fumble is the only blemish over that time. But like so many things in this game, it’s strength on strength. We’ll see who wins out.
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