The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will the Steelers be able to contain the Browns’ run game enough to win?
A top-five run game versus a bottom-five run defense usually doesn’t end well for the latter. The Steelers actually contained the Browns’ rushing game the last time they faced each other earlier this season, though that was partially due to Cleveland not running much.
Nick Chubb rushed for just 61 yards that day, albeit on 16 carries. They also got 22 yards on four carries by D’Ernest Johnson; Kareem Hunt was not available on that day. But that was one of Chubb’s ‘worst’ games of the season. He’s coming off of a 17-carry, 126-yard effort last week, and has averaged nearly 100 rushing yards per game played.
While the run defense remains a major issue for the Steelers, one thing that they have started to clean up is minimizing the explosive runs, which is certainly welcome given how things had been going for a while there.
The season is on the line for both teams in this one. If the Browns can run the ball, they probably win. If the Steelers can stop the run, they probably win. One of those two outcomes is more likely than the other, and I’m afraid to say out loud which it is, but it’s not like you don’t already know.