Keys for the Pittsburgh Steelers to Earn a Victory Against the Cleveland Browns
It was one of their best performances of the season where all three phases came up big with the offense putting points on the board, the defense holding Cincinnati to only a touchdown, and the special teams making big play after big play.
With a short week, the Steelers will quickly focus their attention to the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland is coming off of a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and they will be pretty close to the “packing it in” mode. That does not mean they will be quite ready to quit on the season.
Pittsburgh usually brings out the best in teams, and they also tend to play down to their competition. This is a not a game they can afford to lose if they want to have a chance at the AFC North crown.
“It's getting closer to the playoffs and it's time for us to get better,” said Mike Wallace.
Wallace is correct. It is playoff mode for the Steelers, and they need to be hitting on all cylinders at this time of year.
Here are keys to the Steelers earning a victory over the Browns.
Do Not Look Ahead
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Colt McCoy is banged up, as is Peyton Hillis, and that does not bode well for Cleveland. An already struggling team does not need any injuries to two of its best offensive weapons.
Bad news for Cleveland is good news for the Steelers, but even with several players banged up, the Browns will still put up a challenge.
The Browns always get up for the Steelers, and this week will be no exception knowing that they can put a dent in the Steelers' chase for the division.
That may not be enough, though, as the Steelers have won 14 of the last 15 against the Browns.
It will be easy for the Steelers to look past the Browns to the San Francisco 49ers, their toughest game remaining on the schedule, particularly coming off of last week's big win.
The guess is here that the Steelers will be focused at the task at hand. They are a veteran team and know what is at stake.
Stay in the Red Zone Hot
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Week after week the Steelers struggled in the red zone. They finally broke through last week scoring on all four of their opportunities.
This week should not be much different.
Pittsburgh played a more physical game last week, and the results showed. The offensive line was able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage as Rashard Mendenhall converted on two touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger found his big play receiver, Mike Wallace, for two more scores.
The Steelers showed some diversity near the end zone, and more importantly, they had positive plays.
Avoiding sacks and negative yardage on run plays was very instrumental in their ability to score on all of their red zone attempts.
Matching up against the Browns’ 31st ranked rush defense should help the Steelers in the red zone this week. Expect Mendenhall to get multiple chances once again.
Protect the Quarterback and the Football
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Let’s be straight up, the Browns are not a very good football team.
From top to bottom the Steelers talent is much better than the Browns and this should show on the field. For this reason, the only way that Cleveland will be able to stay competitive on Thursday is to pressure Roethlisberger and force turnovers.
These two aspects of the game go hand-in-hand.
As we saw a couple of weeks ago at Kansas City, the Chiefs were able to be competitive, actually in position to win, in part because of how they pressured Roethlisberger.
Pressure from the Browns could force the offense into mistakes, whether they are turnovers or simply not scoring points.
When Roethlisberger goes on the move he often looks for the big play and at times can make poor decisions with his passes. That could be particularly harmful against the best pass defense in the league, though they only have six interceptions for the season.
Former Pitt defensive end, Jabaal Sheard, leads the Browns in sacks with 5.5.
Spotlight Player: Offense
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Rashard Mendenhall gets to go against one of the worst rush defenses in the league. At times that could actually mean bad things for the Pittsburgh rush offense.
However, this week I expect Pittsburgh to run the ball in the cold weather conditions and considering the Browns pass defenses rates so highly (in part, though, because of the poor rush defense).
Cleveland allows 151.3 yards per game on the ground, and last week Ray Rice ran for 204 yards and a score.
Mendenhall ran very well last week, as did Isaac Redman. These two can wear down the Browns defense if they continue to run this way with Mendenhall getting a bulk of the carries.
Spotlight Player: Defense
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James Harrison had a huge game last week and will want to repeat on prime time.
Last week, Harrison came up with three sacks. He also had a three sack performance against Baltimore. Both of these were at home.
The only AFC North opponent to get three sacks at home against is Cleveland and he will get to go against a slowed down Colt McCoy.
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- Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 60-56.
- The Steelers have won 14 of the last 15 meetings and have only lost to the Browns once at Heinz Field.
- Pittsburgh defeated Cleveland 41-9 on January 2, 2011.
- Under Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh is 4-1 on Thursday night games.
- Standout rookies Jabaal Sheard (DE) and Jason Pinkston (OL) played at Pitt.
- Hines Ward is 10 receptions away from 1,000 for his career.
- Mike Wallace needs 28 yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight year.
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