Steelers’ front seven matches up better against Browns offense
It was surely a tough draw to get the 49ers right out of the gate to kick off the 2023 season, especially considering that the Steelers' defense would be depending on six or seven newcomers against a veteran offensive juggernaut.
The Browns are not the 49ers. Not even close. While Cleveland certainly has its share of weapons on offense, they’re not as difficult to defend overall. The 49ers were just so explosive, having game-breakers at every skill position.
T.J. Watt, who had three sacks and five quarterback hurries against the 49ers, will likely be matched up against Browns rookie OT Dawand Jones, who will be making his first NFL start. In fairness, Jones is a mountain of a man at 6-8 and pushing 400 pounds, and he played well for most of Week 1 after subbing in for starter Jack Conklin (who was lost for the season with a knee injury). But my money is on Watt’s quickness around the edge playing a huge factor here.
And don’t forget about fellow edge Alex Highsmith -- who had seven tackles last week. He’s still searching for his first sack of the season after a tough matchup with 49ers All-Pro Trent Williams. This week he’ll line up against Cleveland’s Jedrick Wills, Jr., who is not 100 percent healthy going into the game. The Browns have allowed 15 sacks in their last three games dating back to last season.
This will be a rough-and-tumble AFC North battle, and I expect to see more of Steelers inside LB Elandon Roberts in this one. Roberts looks to be Pittsburgh’s best run defender, as he led the team with two tackles for loss and finished second with seven total tackles last week.