The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their third game of the 2022 regular season on the road Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns and they’ll enter that contest listed as a slight underdog once again. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the road game Thursday night to come away with their second win of the 2022 season.
By George, Get Him The Ball – In the Steelers’ first two games of the 2022 regular season we have seen rookie wide receiver George Pickens catch two passes for 26 yards on just six total targets and in 95 total offensive snaps played. That’s certainly not good enough and that needs to change starting Thursday night against the Browns. Pickens needs the football in his hands right out of the chute Thursday night and even if that requires throwing a wide receiver screen pass to him on the first play of the game. Pickens has mostly been asked to run deep routes in his first two games and while more of that should be expected Thursday night, some curls, comebacks, digs and out routes need to be mixed in. If Pickens doesn’t catch at least five passes Thursday night, the Steelers probably won’t beat the Browns. They need to give the rookie second round draft pick a chance to deliver a few explosive plays.
Don’t Get Nick-ed for 84 Or More – The Browns will obviously look to run the football early and often against the Steelers defense on Thursday night and that means we should again look for a heavy dose of running back Nick Chubb, who enters Week 3 as the NFL’s second leading rusher. 84 yards rushing per game seems to be a key number for Chubb as the Browns are 21-11 when he hits that mark and 9-18-1 when he doesn’t. Against the Steelers for his career, the Browns are 2-0 when Chubb rushes for 84 or more yards and 0-4 when he fails to reach that mark. The Browns have one of the best run blocking lines in the NFL once again, so stopping Chubb won’t be an easy task and especially early in the game.
Blitz Through The Lack Of Wattage – Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt remains on the Reserve/Injured list and the defense really misses him when they don’t have him. For starters, the Steelers are now 0-5 in games that Watt has missed during his career. On top of that, the Steelers’ defense has averaged just 1.6 sacks per game in those five contests that Watt has missed with an average of just three quarterback hits per game on top of that. Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissette has only been sacked twice so far this season and that’s not surprising with the offensive line they have in place. A four-man rush against the Browns isn’t likely to produce great results so new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will likely need to blitz quite a bit Thursday night. Some of those Thursday night blitzes better get home and not only that, a turnover or two needs to be produced as a result of sending numbers. The Steelers defense will likely need at least three sacks Thursday night for the team to beat the Browns.
Mobile Mitch – The mobility of Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky has yet to really be seen since he landed in Pittsburgh. The only mobility that he’s shown so far in the Steelers’ first two games has been him running himself into unnecessary sacks. To be exact, three of the four times that Trubisky has been sacked so far this season the veteran quarterback has been to blame for them. Trubisky averaged 8.1 on scramble runs from 2018-2021 and that was good for third best in the NFL during that span. He only has three scramble runs so far this season. Trubisky might need to use his legs more Thursday night when and if the opportunity presents itself as part of him leaving the pocket. He might even be able to pick up a first down or two in doing so. At the very least, we need to start seeing the mobility of Trubisky put to use more Thursday night and even if that means rolling him out for some easy short completions. The over/under for Trubisky rushing yards Thursday night is 12.5 and I think him going over that number might not necessarily be a terrible thing for the Steelers’ offense.
Heavy Lipstick On The Pig Playbook – With this being a short week, we’re unlikely to see much change when it comes to the Steelers offensive playbook. Even head coach Mike Tomlin hinted at such during his weekly television show. If the playbook isn’t going to change much Thursday night, Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada needs to put a lot of lipstick on that ugly pig of a call sheet of his and that means mix up the formations, personnel on the field and more. The worst thing that he can do is to run the same plays from the last two weeks out of the same looks and groupings. He also better change up his tendencies quite a bit on this short week as well. Canada’s offense is already unappetizing as it is, and it will be even more undigestible if the Browns’ defense easily identifies the play calls based only on two games-worth of tape.