The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a lot of time to let Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots marinate. Whether or not that will be decided to have been a good thing will be determined based on the results of tonight’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
And you already know what the central theme is going to be. All eyes are going to be on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, not only on the basics of his performance, but also through what he is asked to execute, and whether or not there are any indications that he has any freedom to work within it.
A lot of fans want Kenny Pickett to be starting this game, but I think almost all of them understand why that’s not going to happen yet. At this point it may be an advantage that tonight’s game is on the road just to escape the ‘Kenny’ chants.
Especially after Sunday’s game, I think we’re also going to be taking a closer look at the decision-making out of the backfield, specifically of Najee Harris. The second-year back, while nursing a foot ailment, has recently come under fire, including from former Steelers lineman Trai Essex, for a lack of vision in his running, failing to take running lanes that were open for him.
With that being said, the Steelers’ run game when employed actually was mostly successful on Sunday. In fact, the offensive line generally has been trending in a positive direction, so we’ll have to see if that continues. The Browns will be without Jadeveon Clowney, and Myles Garrett is at less than 100 percent, so that may help.
While it wasn’t all on him by any means, tight end Pat Freiermuth didn’t exactly live up to the billing he’s gotten since he entered the league, the guy who will catch anything that enters his radius. He definitely did not do that on Sunday, even if he came down with a score.
Defensively, we have to look at the run defense, not just because of the late collapse on Sunday, but because we’re talking about the Cleveland Browns, the team who, absent a healthy Baltimore Ravens unit, is the best rushing attack in the NFL.
A lot of it is individuals just doing a better job of getting off blocks and finishing tackles, but there’s not much to say about that. More importantly, how will they make scheme adjustments to prevent exposure to the disadvantages offenses can put them in?
We also have to discuss the 3-3-5 front, which the Steelers are using fairly heavily and will continue to do so at least until T.J. Watt returns. A lot of new and young players are being asked to get on the field, and we’ve seen a mixed bag in terms of the corresponding results.
And it would be a mistake to dismiss the Browns’ passing game, which is still in the process of development with all the moving parts they’ve had this offseason. Jacoby Brissett had a good game as a passer last week, and Amari Cooper is clearly established as his number one target. The defense might want to consider doubling him at times.