The Steelers attempt to sweep the Browns this week, and by all accounts, they should be able to win this matchup. Cleveland learned that they would be without quarterback Deshaun Watson for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury. This has left the team scrambling for a potential replacement.
On paper, this should make the Steelers' job easy. They can beat up on a rookie quarterback and cruise to their seventh win. Unfortunately, I doubt this week is that easy, as AFC North battles rarely are. Here are the three keys to victory the Steelers will need this week against the Browns.
Steelers need to keep up the strong line play
The Steelers have seen their mediocre offensive line seemingly find their footing over the past few weeks. The unit has been under a lot of criticism for a few seasons now, but after rebuilding the interior and drafting a top tackle, the hope was for this season to see this line display some dominance.
That wasn’t the case early on, but recent weeks have seen this unit really come together. While not the sole reason for this boost, rookie tackle Broderick Jones has been a mauler and looks like a solid pick. The interior has been hard to move, and even Dan Moore is playing some better football.
The Browns boast a top defensive line that is hard to block. While this line has played exceptionally well, they have a real test this week. With the run game being so important to the Steelers' success, they need to be able to win in the trenches this week and keep the run game going in the right direction.
The Steelers need to capitalize on Dorian Thompson-Robinson
In a minor upset, the Browns decided to move forward with Dorian Thompson-Robinson as their starting quarterback in the wake of the Watson injury. P.J. Walker had been the replacement before, but Thompson-Robinson gets another chance following his horrible showing against the Ravens.
While a fun prospect, Thompson-Robinson is still extremely raw as a player. He can do some damage on the ground and has a decent arm, but he doesn’t do well under pressure. The Steelers need to be on him early and make him have a repeat of the Browns game this Sunday.
The Steelers need to change the narrative
One of the most impressive, for the wrong reasons, narratives of this team is that they have been outgained by every team that they have faced this season. While this team has still eeked out wins, it certainly hasn’t been pretty. This is the week to change that narrative.
The Browns put up just over 200 total yards on offense when Thompson-Robinson started against the Ravens. Pittsburgh needs to force a repeat, better that number themselves, and win. If this team wants any shot at competing long-term, they need to start actually outproducing their opponents.
The Steelers have a critical game this week against a divisional rival. While they should cruise to a win on paper, expect a harder matchup than that. If this team wants to win though, they need to follow these three keys to victory.