Watt: Steelers Need To Make Browns One-Dimensional, ‘Smash The Run’

Pittsburgh Steelers OLB T.J. Watt was a guest on The Rich Eisen Show ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday Night Football matchup with the Cleveland Browns, and Watt talked about the importance of being able to stop Nick Chubb to help set up the pass rush.

“We know they like to run the football, even if you’re stopping it early in the game, they’re going to continue to run the football,” Watt said. “Any time a team is running the ball on you is demoralizing, and that’s why offenses like to do it. But it’s important for us to come out and smash the run early, that’s what we talk about each and every week but it’s more about doing it and making teams one-dimensional. Our whole objective is to smash the run, get them behind the chains and then hopefully be able to pin our ears back and get after the quarterback.”

Watt was the only guy who brought any semblance of a pass rush in the team’s Week One loss to the San Francisco 49ers, recording three sacks. With Watt going up against a rookie right tackle in Dawand Jones, he’s going to look to have another big night getting after the passer.

But the key is going to be to stop the run, something the Steelers couldn’t do in Week One. Christian McCaffrey ran for 152 yards against Pittsburgh, and the Browns have two guys very capable of getting yards on the ground in Chubb and QB Deshaun Watson, who had 44 yards on six carries against the Steelers last season in Week 18. Stopping those two is going to be the key to Pittsburgh winning, and Watt talked about Watson’s elusiveness a little bit with Eisen.

“He’s been able to extend plays, he’s a very tough tackle,” Watt said. “If he doesn’t like what he has downfield he can tuck and run, and he’s very good getting to the first down marker and he’s good at shedding tackles.”

Watson’s ability to scramble is going to make it extra important for the pass rush to get home. The more time he has to sit in the pocket, the more running lanes could develop for him to scramble. The Steelers got to him seven times in the Week 18 matchup last season, and while the loss of Cameron Heyward is going to affect Pittsburgh’s pass rush, they need to make it a priority to get home, especially with Cleveland’s line missing Jack Conklin.

If the Steelers can stop the run early and make the Browns turn into more of a passing team, they’re going to have an advantage. While Cleveland’s receiving corps improved with the additions of Elijah Moore via trade and Cedric Tillman in the draft, they might be without their top receiver in Amari Cooper tonight.

The Steelers need to force Watson to throw, something he struggled with a bit in the team’s Week One win, although weather conditions played a factor. Watson was just 16-of-29 for 154 yards through the air in Week One, and if he puts up similar numbers tonight and the Steelers contain the run, they’ll be in good shape.

Watt’s performance is going to be a major factor for Pittsburgh tonight. He was a stud in Week One and he’s a true game-wrecker on the field. He needs to win against a rookie offensive tackle and disrupt Cleveland’s offensive flow.

Watt has 42 tackles and 16 sacks in 11 career games against Cleveland, and he’s going to need to show out against them again tonight. All around, the Steelers have to be better, particularly in the secondary. They allowed the second-most explosive passing plays in Week One, and if that happens again, it’s going to be an uphill battle, especially with Chubb in the backfield.

It’s obviously going to be a real group effort to stop Chubb and try to make the Browns one-dimensional, and if they do that, they need to be better against the pass than they were last week. But the Steelers are hungry, knowing they need to win a home matchup against a divisional opponent, and Mike Tomlin’s record after blowout losses should indicate that this team will be prepared for the task ahead. We’ll see if they can get it done.

Watch the full interview below:

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