The Browns head to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second time in 16 days. We all know what happened last time these two teams met. Lost a bit in the Myles Garrett saga is the dominant performance the Browns defense displayed against Mason Rudolph. They harassed and sacked him into a four-interception performance on Thursday night football. The Browns will face a new quarterback after Rudolph continued his struggles against The Bengals and eventually was benched. Here are the Browns keys to victory over the Steelers and new quarterback Devlin Hodges,
More of the Same Defensively
The Browns defense came out last time against the Steelers in pure attack mode. They stuffed the run game and forced Mason Rudolph to beat them through the air. It worked. The defensive lined gave the Browns a dominate performance forcing Rudolph into mistakes.
The question this week is, can they do that once again without their best pass rusher in Myles Garrett? That is bad news. The good news is that Olivier Vernon is practicing this week for the first time since week nine. That, combined with Ogunjobi back after his one-game suspension, could help to offset the loss of Garrett.
The other good news for Cleveland? Joe Schobert is still manning the middle and making plays. After a massive day in his last game against the Steelers, Schobert continued that trend with another strong performance against the Miami Dolphins. The Browns will need Schobert going sideline to sideline once again, making plays if they want to keep this win streak alive for one more week.
Coach Wilks will need to dial up some blitzes and work to confuse the young Hodges into some of the same mistakes Rudolph made in the previous contest. He will not have the luxury of Garrett being in the backfield on nearly every play this week. With the Steelers offense struggling mightily, the Browns defense must put up another dominant performance.
Pound the Rock
Last week against the Dolphins, the Browns ran 32 times for 147 yards, and it felt like they should have run more. After building a big lead early in the game, Kitchens seemed to be working on his passing game instead of ponding the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to ride the clock to victory. This tactic lets gave the Dolphins some life in the third/fourth quarter as the browns seemed to stall again on offense.
Freddie must not take this tactic in this one. Should the Browns be lucky enough to jump out to an early lead, they must ram the ball down the Steelers throats and control this game. Giving a team like the Steelers’ life is not the same as the Dolphins. If that defense smells blood, they will attack and try to continue turning the tide in their favor. If Chubb is tired, then run Hunt when he is tired then roll back to Chubb. To win this game, the Browns must make enough plays and then dominate this game with their dynamic duo in the backfield.
Mistake Free Football
Over the last four games, the Browns have turned the ball over ONE time. That one mistake was an interception on a pass thrown behind Beckham being tipped right into the defender’s hand. That was also one of the key reasons the Dolphins were able to climb back into the game last week for a short time.
This Browns team must continue to limit mistakes to have a chance. Especially against a defense like the Steelers. Freddie will need to keep his team focused and stem any overconfidence that can undoubtedly arise with this group of personalities. They need to continue to understand they are 5-6 and have proven nothing. Go in, do your job, and come out with a win.
The Browns have been playing solid football over the previous four games, going 3-1 with limited mistakes. The Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives and struggling immensely on the offensive side of the ball. Both teams are desperately trying to prove something to the rest of the NFL and media. In the end, the Browns get the edge 24-17 as the Steelers offense lets them down once again.
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