The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their seventh regular season game of 2021 on the road on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns and they’ll enter that contest marked as an underdog of likely more than three points. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland to come away with their fourth win of 2021 season and their first divisional win.
Myles Of Help – Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is a one-man wrecking crew and essentially the Cleveland version of Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Garrett can hugely impact a game on any one snap and on Sunday in Cleveland most of his snaps will be against Steelers rookie tackle Dan Moore Jr. The Steelers offensive game plan must include giving Moore some help with Garrett throughout the contest via a chipping running back or tight end for starters. Keeping a tight end to help block Garrett on obvious passing downs would also be highly advisable. The Steelers should run early and often right at Garrett to at least maybe help in slowing him down just a tad at the snap of the football. Should Garrett record two or more sacks of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, odds are good that his afternoon wound up greatly impacting the outcome of the game. Garrett will reportedly arrive Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium wearing his Halloween costume. The Steelers need to make sure that Garrett does not leave FirstEnergy Stadium wearing Moore as a hat after the game.
Get Chubby – The Browns offensive focus on Sunday will be to run the football early and often with running back Nick Chubb, who will play after missing the last few games with a calf injury. Chubb should be rested and ready to go on Sunday and that makes him even more dangerous. The Browns also should have right tackle Jack Conklin back on Sunday as well, as if they really missed him. This Browns offense really runs the football well and especially when it comes to zone runs, both inside and outside. Their offense not only runs the football successfully at a high rate the unit also gets big plays of more than 10 yards on the ground as well. The Steelers defense must sell out to stop the run Browns running game on Sunday at all costs. Every Steelers defensive player must be in the right gap and tackling must be the best we’ve seen so far this season as well. It’s hard to imagine the Steelers winning on Sunday if the Browns running backs have more than 28 total combined carries. Additionally, if the Browns register a successful run rate of 52% or better against the Steelers, it’s hard to imagine them losing the contest even if the unit registers at least 20 total carries.
Be Cleveland’s Better Ground Steamers – Like the Browns offense, the Steelers offense also figures to want to run early and often on Sunday in Cleveland. The Steelers running game has shown some improvement in the last three games and on Sunday the offense, well-rested and all coming off a bye week, will face a huge test when it comes to the Browns defense, a defense that has been good against the run at times on first downs so far this season to boot. That said, first downs is exactly when the Steelers should attempt to run on the Browns and hopefully rookie running back Najee Harris will be up to the task, he needs to register at least 22 carries on Sunday for the team to get out of the stadium with a win. The team that runs the football the best on Sunday is likely to be the team that registers a win.
Make Baker Shoulder The Load – Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will play on Sunday against the Steelers, injured left shoulder and all. The Steelers must make Mayfield beat their defense on Sunday with his good shoulder, the one he uses to throw with. In short, the Steelers defense must make Mayfield take snaps in as many third and long situations as possible. Additionally, any and every chance a member of the Steelers defense gets to hit Mayfield legally, that player must do so. Watt could be that player for the Steelers who hits Mayfield multiple times on Sunday and really gets him thinking about his injured left shoulder more than he should. If the Steelers defense isn’t able to hit and sack Mayfield multiple times on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the team going back to Pittsburgh Sunday evening with a win.
Be Plus-2 – I hate to boil this Sunday game down to just explosive plays and turnovers. That said, there’s been plenty of talk these last few weeks about the Steelers offense not registering nearly enough explosive plays of 20 yards or longer and the defense not registering nearly enough takeaways. As a team, the Steelers are -2 in net turnover differential entering Sunday’s game against the Browns. Strangely enough, the Browns also enter Sunday’s game -2 in net turnover differential. If the Steelers can win the Sunday TOX battle by two or more, I guarantee you they will win the game. Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is looking for his first interception of 2021 and Sunday would be a great time for him to get it. No takeaways by the Steelers defense on Sunday and I can almost guarantee you that they will lose the game.