The Cleveland Browns have, at times, looked like one of the most dynamic and explosive offenses in the NFL. They have also looked like one of the worst. That probably explains why they rank right in the middle of the pack in scoring, having put up 40-plus points three times and been held to under 10 points three times as well.
One of the three games in which they were held to under 10 points was their first meeting this season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with their division rivals blowing them out to the tune of 38-7. After the Steelers scored an opening-drive field goal, Minkah Fitzpatrick scored on a pick six of Baker Mayfield. It was 24-0 before Cleveland got on the board at all.
“We did not play our best game across the board”, said Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt in recalling the previous game in preparation for the next. “That is the thing that these guys have learned. They went back and watched that game, and they understand that when you are playing good defenses like the Steelers have you have to be on top of your game”.
“Playing with physicality is important against this group”, he added. “We were in a different place than we were then, and it will be interesting on Sunday. I feel really good about our week of preparation at this point, as disjointed as it has been. Like I said, the guys are focused, they are ready and they understand what happened in the game and who we were at that point and where we are going to be on Sunday”.
Following that game, the Browns won a shootout against the Cincinnati Bengals, 37-34, but then lost 6-16 to the Las Vegas Raiders, then won 10-7 against the Houston Texans. After that, they went on a five-game run of scoring 20-plus points, going 4-1 in that span, with only a shootout loss to the Baltimore Ravens as a blemish.
“There is familiarity in that we played them earlier in the season so anytime you play a team for the second time, both sides have the tape to go back to, and that scheme has been together for a long time so there is plenty of tape”, said head coach Kevin Stefanski about playing the Steelers.
“Will they change? Like they said, it may be a little, but you do not wholesale change schemes in situations”, he added. “That is for us to kind of dig in and look at their roster, look at who is playing, understand them and understand their strengths. That is important for us right now in our game planning”.
The Browns, of course, have far more at stake than do the Steelers, whose priority will be coming out of the game healthy. Cleveland, meanwhile, will be playing a virtual win-or-go-home scenario as they attempt to secure their first postseason berth since 2002, so needless to say, they need to do dramatically better against Pittsburgh this time around.