Browns vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh's Keys to Thursday Night Game Against Cleveland

Soven BerySenior Analyst IDecember 6, 2011

Browns vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh's Keys to Thursday Night Game Against Cleveland

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    As Big Ben and Company gear up to face Colt McCoy and his Cleveland Browns, you, as a fan, are gearing up for a Thursday night filled with football. While it may not be the most exciting matchup ever, 4-8 Cleveland will be visiting 9-3 Pittsburgh, it's still a divisional matchup and those always prove to be interesting. 

    Here is how the Pittsburgh Steelers can win the game: 

1. Don't Screw Up

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    On paper the Steelers are a much, much better team then the defunct Browns. But that's why the games are played. There is no doubt in my mind that Cleveland can come out swinging and pull off the upset. 

    That shouldn't happen. 

    And it won't if Mike Tomlin's boys don't make crucial errors and stick to the game plan. This key might seem obvious but the Steelers are a far superior team. If they lose this one, it will be a self-inflicted wound.

2. Don't Throw the Ball to Joe Haden

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    The Browns are not the best team in the league. But they have their strengths. One of those strengths would be their deep secondary. They are first in the league at stopping the pass. A big reason for that would be second-year cornerback Joe Haden. 

    Big Ben should make it a priority to not throw the ball often to Joe Haden, as Haden has the ability to make a big play. He will play shutdown defense. 

    In fact, Bruce Arians should try to limit the passes in this game versus a very good defense at defending the pass. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Run the Ball

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    …Which is that the Steelers should run the ball. I'm not saying that Pittsburgh is a bad running team, but in the playoffs a team has to be complete and the running game could use improvement. 

    It also makes sense that the Steelers game plan should include some experiments involving the running game. Like I said before, the Browns defense is immaculate when it comes to defending the pass but when teams try to run it, the defense morphs into a chicken without a head. The defense is ranked last in the league at defending the run. 

    The game plan will let Rashard Mendenhall prepare for the playoffs and run freely. 

4. Continue Playing Defense at a Very High Level

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    Colt McCoy is a young quarterback. If the Steelers front line can get pressure on him, then they can force McCoy to make bad throws and turn the ball over. The quarterback out of Texas has averaged an interception in the last three games and this showdown should be more of the same.

    The secondary in Pittsburgh is one of the best in the league and they will be playing against a bad receiving corps. It will a mismatch the whole night. 

    As for the run game, the Steelers have been fantastic in that department as well. The game plan will call for more of the same against Peyton Hillis and Chris Ogbonnaya. If the defense plays like they have been playing all season, then there is no way that the Terrible Towel will stop waving. 

5. Destroy the Browns Run Game

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    The wins in Cleveland have been far and few between, but when the Browns do win they do it by rushing. Cleveland has had three rushing touchdowns on the year; all three of those have come in wins. When the Browns run well, they play well.

    Colt McCoy uses the running game as a crutch. Take that crutch away from him and you now have the game in your hands. That's what the Steelers defense must do in order to make McCoy throw the ball. 

    The Steelers defense must focus on clogging up the holes and stopping the run game cold.