The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
Get The Runs Going – Whichever team runs the ball the best in this game is most likely to win due to the expected bad weather conditions. The Steelers have not run the ball consistently at all so far this season and in the last three games their running backs have combined to rush 70 times for 256 yards. The Browns defense has only allowed an average of 3.55 yards per rush this season and that is good for third best in the league heading into this game.
No Flash Gordon – Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is second on the team in receptions with 40 and 12 of those receptions have been good for 20 yards or more. Half of them have gone for 15 or more yards, so Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor will certainly have his hands full in this game. The Steelers have been giving up chucks of yardage in the passing game all season and the difference in this game could be one explosive play. Just so you know, all nine of Gordon’s career touchdowns have come from 20 or more yards out.
Third & Six Campbell – In the last three games, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell is 12-of-21 passing on third downs with six or more yards to go. Only three of those completed passes resulted in first downs and he was sacked on three drop backs. If the Steelers defense can keep Campbell behind the chains for most of the game, their chances of getting the win improve drastically. The Browns are 11-of-45 (24.4%) on third downs in their last three games and two of those conversions were two-yard runs on third and one by running back Willis McGahee.
No Forcing It To Brown – Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown might very well lead the league in receptions, but Sunday he will be going against one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Joe Haden, who has three interceptions in his last two games. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger must not force the ball to Brown in this game as one mistake could result in six points the other way. Roethlisberger must be patient and use all of his eligibles.
In Bell‘s Hands – Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell has already managed to catch 24 passes for 238 yards in the seven games that he has played in this season. The Browns defense, on the other hand, has allowed backs to catch 53 passes for 392 yards so far this season. In addition inside linebacker Craig Robertson is doubtful for this game with a knee injury, so that could stress this Browns defense even more when it comes to covering Bell out of the backfield.
Capitalize On Short Fields – There isn’t likely to be a lot of points scored in this game, so the Steelers have to turn short fields provided them into points. On the flip side, punting in this game shouldn’t necessarily be considered a bad thing, so punter Mat McBriar can play a big role in a win by pinning the Browns offense back a few times.
Turnover Winner Wins – Last year in Cleveland, the Steelers turned the ball over a whopping eight times and that resulted in a loss. One turnover could be one too many in this game if things go like I think they will. The Steelers offense has only turned the ball over once in the last two games and they won both of them.