The Pittsburgh Steelers are traveling north up the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes for Thursday’s prime time showdown with their AFC North rivals the Cleveland Browns, and here’s the Steelers Now pregame primer.
KEY TO VICTORY
This barely qualifies as analysis, but in order to beat the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers will have to stop the run. The Steelers held Cleveland’s powerful rushing attack to 96 and 93 yards in 2021, and won both games. They did that despite being the No. 32 overall team against the run last year.
Last week against New England, the Steelers couldn’t slow down Damien Harris, and the Patriots converted a ton of third and short situations while the Steelers struggled to get consistent pressure on Mac Jones. Jacoby Brissett is even less of a passing threat than Jones was, so topping Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is the Steelers’ No. 1 key to victory by a landslide.
BOLD PREDICTION: MITCH TRUBISKY HITS SOME DEEP BALLS
The Steelers offense has been predictable and safe in its first two games, turning the ball over just once, but leading few long scoring drives as a result. Mitch Trubisky struggled with some accuracy against the Bengals and made some poor decisions against the Patriots, but the struggles of the offense have been more about what they haven’t tried to do than what he’s been incapable of doing — and player concerns about the play-calling echo that.
The Cleveland Browns’s secondary had a disastrous game last week against the New York Jets and the Browns will be without two of their top three pass rushers for this contest. If there was ever a time to turn Trubisky loose and take advantage of the mismatches the Steelers can create in the secondary with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens and Chase Claypool.
OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: TERRELL EDMUNDS vs. DAVID NJOKU
Terrell Edmunds have been underrated in Pittsburgh for a while now. Though he never became the dynamic play-maker people expected when the Steelers made him a first-round pick, Edmunds has become one of the team’s most consistent defenders, especially since the arrival of Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019 helped stabilize the secondary around him.
Edmunds is at his best erasing opposing tight ends from the equation, and he’s been very good at it recently. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for zero catches on four targets last week. The Cleveland receivers group is not as deep or dangerous as it has been, making Njoku an even bigger part of the Browns’ passing attack, and making Edmunds’ defense against him all the more critical.
Pittsburgh +3.5 (-108)
Under 37.5 (-104)
Jacoby Brissett to Throw an Interception Yes (+106)
Last week: (1-1-1, -.13 units): P Pittsburgh +3 (-115), W Under 40.5 (-115), L Najee Harris Under 48.5 Rushing Yds
Season: (2-3-1, -1.28 units)