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Steelers Analysis

3 Key Mismatches That Will Decide Steelers-Browns



Steelers Browns Myles Garrett
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 10: Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) on the field during the fourth quarter of the National Football League game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns on November 10, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

While the schematics in football are fun to discuss, the game often comes down to matchups. The Browns and Steelers have familiar names on both sides of the football to create matchups that make each other’s lives difficult. What are the three key matchups in the game that could decide it?

Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith vs. Steelers OL

This game has no more significant matchup than the Browns edge rushers against the Steelers tackles. Kenny Pickett needs more time to sit back there and be able to make things happen in the pocket, but with Za’Darius Smith now across the way from Myles Garrett, this Browns pass rush became even more worrisome. That is before you get to the interior, where Shelby Harris and Dalvin Tomlinson create a highly effective one-two punch.

Whether the two tackles are Dan Moore Jr. and Chuks Okorafor or Broderick Jones, those players need to minimize the impact of those two on the game.  The two combined for 12 pressures, and Garrett can line up all over the offensive line. So, the interior and guys like Mason Cole and James Daniels must be ready to block Garrett if he lines up over the A-gap. Much like what happened with the 49ers last week, the Steelers did hold Nick Bosa in check, but it led to Drake Jackson breaking out for massive games. Pittsburgh can’t let that happen in the passing game, and they need to be able to run the football to win this game.

T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith vs. Browns OTs

Conversely, the Steelers edge rushers remain their best chance to get Deshaun Watson and the Browns offense off schedule. Nick Chubb can not run outside the tackle if the Steelers want to beat the Browns. Those two things compound to place a lot of emphasis on T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. And the Steelers have a massive advantage in this area. Highsmith has proven to get the best of Wills numerous times, while Dawand Jones is a rookie in his first start against one of the best edge rushers in the NFL.

The Steelers need to maximize every advantage they have on the edge. Use the gravity of those guys to create pressure with other areas, like slot cornerback blitzes and the like. Watson went down seven times when the Steelers won 28-14 in January. Despite Chubb averaging over six yards per carry, the Steelers offense got out to a fast enough start, and the defense terrorized Watson. It will take a similar path to winning this matchup.

RELATED: Browns OT Dawand Jones Out to Expose Hole in T.J. Watt’s Game

Browns CBs vs. Steelers WRs

With Diontae Johnson, this had the potential to be a fun back-and-forth. But a Browns cornerback room that plays a lot of man coverage against George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin, and company is a big question mark for the Steelers. Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson, and Greg Newsome create a fearsome trio of cornerbacks that any team would love to have on their current roster. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz looks like he has this group ready to leap one of the NFL’s best groups.

It’s hard to envision the Steelers having a prolific passing game on paper. But if they can chip into this mismatch with a few big catches by Pickens and some flashes from Austin, it will significantly help the Steelers. They must make a few deep ball conversions to get the offense moving in a rhythm. That is on Pickett and the receivers to make plays against a group that just shut down Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd.

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September 16, 2023 10:26 pm

Steelers need to get Darnell Washington involved as a pass catcher. Him and Friermuth could make a big difference for Pickett.

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