Steelers Week 6 early impressions by the numbers vs. Cleveland Browns
Six weeks into the 2020 NFL season, “EIBTN” highlights the first of AFC North matchups for the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) against the Cleveland Browns (4-1).
To write an article or think-piece or whatever you want to call it, on this quote, the foolishness of itself would derive away from a neutral base take that is usually strived here. The title was typed out, the body of work constructing between my thoughts, but to devote a full-page Pittsburgh Steelers article to this, I think this is enough.
Cue puzzled rant by Stephen A Smith.
However, considering the lack of its means, it will be the second straight week the Steelers upcoming opponent provides “bulletin board material.” First, it was the challenge of Philadelphia Eagles players suggesting they had the better defensive line, and then the above so-perceived “motivation”.
If the reader allows me to shift after whatever that was, let me present the Steelers’ 2020 sixth edition of “Early Impressions by the Numbers” against the Cleveland Browns.
Do Browns discontinue Steelers of their home dominance?
According to footballdb.com, the last time the Browns visited Heinz Field and exited with a win dates back to 2003. Counting the 32 other times they have faced off since the Steelers have only dropped four games against their fellow AFC North rival.
This time is a bit different. For just the second time since 03’, the Browns offense ranks higher than 20th in the NFL in points per game, at fourth (25.1). Broken down, it’s a fortified on-the-ground attack that has scored 32 or more points in each game this season but one that is first in rushing yards per game (188.4) & second in rushing yards per attempt (5.5).
Luckily for the Browns, they’re approaching the NFL’s second-toughest run defense, only allowing 64.0 rushing yards per game on 3.3 yards per attempt (2nd) in the Steelers. However, I want to entirely stop here & stress another point elsewhere for the effect of this.
A QB, in this case, Baker Mayfield, surrounded by WR Odell Beckham Jr, WR Jarvis Landry (barring their questionable status’), WR Rashard Higgins, & TE Austin Hooper, the passing game might be thought of to be the go-to. Instead, they’re 20th in passing attempts per game (30.8) & still are deadly efficient in what they do on offense.
The Steelers have to nullify this from providing outlets of positive production elsewhere.
Protect the deep left
Without a doubt, the secondary for Pittsburgh has not lived up to the standard the defense as a whole has performed. It’s not a call for action or overhaul but has to improve quickly in the coming month & starts this week. Minding the suggestions on player substitutions or overly-critiquing the play of individual players, the Steelers need to key on the deep left.
Charted by sharpfootballstats.com, Mayfield’s overall passer rating on the season of 88.6 is at its best (135) when his passes are thrown to the deep left (15+ air yards) & then tied with the deep middle for his highest completion percentage (50%).
Important because when the script is flipped to where opponents are attacking the Steelers defensively, it’s not only in the deep left area but the left side of the field in general. Generally, opposing teams have the highest play success rate, yards per play, and are gearing most of their passes towards this direction in 2020.
And what became a struggle against the Philadelphia Eagles, as they converted 10 of their 14 third downs, four came off on passes on 3rd & 8+. One of those four happened on the left side, where teams are also mostly completing explosive pass plays against the Steelers defense.
I apologize if it’s very technical to follow, but reeling back to the main point, they have to subside the running game from not allowing an average passing team to over-achieve. As Cleveland is dealing with injuries on the OL, the Steelers have a greater chance to pressure a relatively well pass-blocking Browns team, who are only giving up 1.4 sacks per game (tied-5th).