The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers squared off against the Cleveland Browns was on Halloween, a game in which the Steelers somehow prevailed with a hard-fought 15-10 win inside FirstEnergy Stadium.
In that Oct. 31 game, the Steelers had to grind out a win on the ground as rookie running back Najee Harris finished with 91 yards and a pivotal touchdown on 26 carries. Though the numbers weren’t pretty overall, it summed up the Steelers-Browns matchup from recent years, that of a trench warfare-type game where the game has to be won up front.
Ahead of the Monday Night Football matchup at Heinz Field in what is Ben Roethlisberger’s likely final home start, Harris knows that the tilt with the Browns will once again be a dog fight for the Steelers’ offense, thanks to a talented, physical front seven in Cleveland.
“Yeah…it’s pretty much like, they always have a good front, so it is gonna be a dog fight,” Harris said to reporters Friday, according to video via Steelers.com. “So that’s one thing we gotta bring over, just to keep going four quarters, and not quitting. Then, just really making plays. Whoever makes the most plays, or the game changers…I think that’s gonna play a big role in this type of game. Just like how it did last game. It’s gonna come down a certain amount of plays.”
The Browns do possess a good front seven, as Harris alludes to. Myles Garrett, Malik McDowell, Malik Jackson, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker, and Sione Takitaki are pretty stout overall and rely on speed and physicality against the run, which has helped them shut down opposing rushing attacks down the stretch as they fight for a playoff spot.
Against such a talented front, the Steelers’ offensive line will have its hands full. That’s problematic for a group that has struggled mightily since that win on Halloween and will now likely feature a new starter at center in J.C. Hassenauer, but should get back left guard Kevin Dotson, which will provide the Steelers’ line with a bit of a boost.
This game will undoubtedly be won in the trenches once again. It may not be with Harris and the Steelers grinding it out like they did on Halloween, but the Steelers are preparing for a dog fight once again.