Following a huge victory over the Los Angeles Rams, things are very exciting for the Steeler Nation as our Pittsburgh Steelers are now 5-4 and back in the playoff picture. However, the Steelers have a short week with another big match up ahead of them this week. They will travel to Cleveland for a huge AFC North rivalry game on Thursday Night Football with the Browns. With a lot of hype coming into the season for this Cleveland team, they have struggled so far, sitting at a 3-6 record. However, they are coming off a huge win over the Buffalo Bills this past weekend and will be looking to get back in the picture. Also, it's important to keep in mind that these two teams always play each other close regardless of records. With that in mind, let's take a look at this week's opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
Fortunately for the Browns, they don't have many new key injuries to worry about heading into this game. They have one player on offense listed as questionable with a knee injury in tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. However, he was able to practice with limited participation on Tuesday so he should be more likely to play than not.
Can Baker get going against impressive Steelers secondary?
A lot of the hype surrounding the Browns heading into this season revolved around quarterback Baker Mayfield and this Browns passing game. Mayfield looked promising last season and was expected to be even better after the Browns acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. this off season.
However, Baker has struggled in his second NFL season, sitting at 17th in the league in passing with 2,201 yards, nine touchdowns, and twelve interceptions. Beckham is his leading receiver, ranking 19th in receiving with 44 receptions for 632 yards and only one touchdown.
They will be facing a Steelers secondary that is currently 12th against the pass, allowing 226.9 passing yards per game with 15 total touchdowns while coming away with 14 interceptions. Their secondary is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Minkah Fitzpatrick who is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions.
The Browns have been much better on the ground this season, with running back Nick Chubb sitting at third in the league in rushing with 919 yards and six touchdowns so far. He will be joined by former Kansas City Chiefs star Kareem Hunt who returned from his suspension last week.
If Hunt is able to get comfortable and be his old self, they will have the best rushing tandem in the league. They will be going up against a Steelers defense that has been in the middle of the pack against the run, sitting at 16th in the league, allowing 105.3 yards per game and 4 total rushing touchdowns so far.
Browns defense has to stop the run
On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns have been towards the middle of league, ranking 17th in total defense. Their defense has allowed 356 yards per game and 24.6 points per game so far this season.
The Browns have struggled tremendously against the run so far. They currently rank 27th in rushing defense, allowing 134.9 yards per game and eight total rushing touchdowns this season. Their front seven is led by defensive end Myles Garrett who has been one of the best in the league at his position.
Behind them, Joe Schobert will start at middle linebacker with rookie Mack Wilson and Adarius Taylor as the outside linebackers. Schobert leads the team with 60 tackles. They will be facing a Steelers rushing attack that gets James Conner back this week with Jaylen Samuels being a reliable second option.
While the Browns have been pretty bad against the run, they have been solid against the pass this season. They rank seventh in passing defense, allowing 221.1 yards per game and 16 total passing touchdowns while coming away with four interceptions so far.
Their secondary is led by second-year corner back Denzel Ward who will be joined by rookie Greedy Williams at the other corner spot. T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell will also see some time in the secondary. Damarious Randall and former Steeler Morgan Burnett will be the starters at safety. A
big key to their success against the pass has been Garrett, who is tied for third in the league with ten sacks. He will look to get to quarterback Mason Rudolph early and make him uncomfortable.
As I already mentioned, these two teams always play each other close, regardless of records. With this game being in Cleveland, I see this being a very close game once again for at least three quarters. Garrett and the Browns pass rush will get to Rudolph early and help keep them in this game. However, I see James Conner having a huge game in his first game back with over 100 yards and at least two touchdowns. The running game for the Steelers will be too much and their defense will step up late to help them pull away in the fourth quarter. I have the Steelers winning 28-17 to continue their win streak.