Playing the Cleveland Browns at home off of a bye week combined with the return of Ben Roethlisberger from suspension is a welcome sight. The Steelers also have payback on their minds from the last meeting in Cleveland in week 14 of the 2009 season. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Browns in week 6.
Ease Big Ben Back In – Let\’s face the facts. The Browns are unlikely to bust the lights on the scoreboard with their offensive firepower, especially if rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is under center. There is really no need to get fancy with Ben Roethlisberger back from his suspension. The same offensive game plan focused around running off the tackles mixed with high percentage pass plays should be more than enough. Easing Ben back into game action should be the focus along with not getting him sacked 8 times like the last time the Steelers faced the Rob Ryan run defense. A 300-yard 4 touchdown day is not needed on Sunday, but a mistake free day is.
No Cribbs Death – Joshua Cribbs is the most dangerous weapon that the Browns have. With the likelihood that McCoy could very well be making his first NFL start as a rookie, you can bet Cribbs might see just as many snaps as him from the Wildcat formation. In his short stint rushing against the Steelers, Cribbs has 144 yards on 17 carries. If that is not enough, he has three kick returns for touchdowns versus the Steelers in his career and 969 return yards on 35 returns. Plain and simple, if the Steelers limit the big game from Cribbs, they should indeed win. He can take the air out of a stadium in a heartbeat though.
Running Up-Hill-is – Running back Peyton Hillis has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns thus far in 2010. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry through 5 games against some pretty good defenses. He also has chipped in 20 catches out of the backfield. The Steelers defense want the Browns to pass. Every yard Hillis earns must be uphill and hard fought. He has battled a thigh injury as of late and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons must certainly be zeroed in on that. The key first is to bring him down on first contact and run blitz as much as possible. Hillis would rather run North and South like most big backs and must be forced to try to get to the edges for his yards.
Confuse The Rookie – If McCoy does indeed start, the walk around amoeba type blitzes will likely have his head spinning and force him into some bad throws and bad decisions. The more mental work he has to do, the better. McCoy struggled in the preseason as most rookie QB\’s do and making his start on the road against the Steelers defense will surely have his nerves wrecked. They must stay wrecked all game. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will make sure of it.
Get Redman More Work – Isaac Redman has silently done things all season that do not show up in the stats. If the Steelers get out big in this game, they can reward Redman by giving him carries in the second half. Another benefit of this is that hopefully starting running back Rashard Mendenhall can get most of the second half off and start resting up for week 7. Redman also is capable on 3rd downs where fellow running back Mewelde Moore has been struggling as of late.
The Wrong Yellow Towels – Head coach Mike Tomlin calls it Steelers beating Steelers. Two weeks ago against the Ravens, the Steelers committed 11 penalties for 88 yards. 3 of those 11 flags came on the Steelers final possession and played a big part in the loss. The only yellow laundry involving the Steelers should be the Terrible Towels waving in the stands. They say penalties can kill you for a reason. Week 4 showed it first hand.
Get Skippy Back On Track – Kicker Jeff Reed has struggled a bit early on and needs to get back on track. If he misses from 45 yards or in on Sunday, the Heinz Field faithful will be on him for sure and he will be back ahead of Marc-André Fleury in the most criticized Pittsburgh sports athlete for the week. Depending on how the redzone offense converts in Ben\’s first game back, Reed may have quite a few opportunities to show he still has it and needs to convert them.
Steelers Browns Game Prediction – The last Browns rookie quarterback to start against Steelers was Charlie Frye in 2005. The Browns were shutout 41-0 and Frye was sacked 8 times in the game. If McCoy does indeed get the start as anticipated, the results could be about the same. As long as the Steelers do not give the Browns short fields with turnovers, big returns or bad penalties, this game should be a cakewalk. The Steelers will ease Ben back in and I think 41 points is asking too much. I see the Browns getting a couple of field goals at most. The Steelers should be able to get the younger guys some work late in this one.
Final Score: Steelers 33 Browns 6