Pittsburgh Steelers Game Day: Cleveland Browns Preview

Welcome to the most comprehensive Pittsburgh Steelers Game Day Preview on the internet! Steel City Underground is where you come to find everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNet) brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a weekly game story, Steelers keys to success, score prediction, game information, a detailed breakdown of each team, individual stats, team stats, and team injury reports. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!

Mental mistakes costing both city’s offensive units

Pittsburgh’s two football teams share the same headquarters and practice facilities. Both teams have storied histories and Hall of Fame players. Both teams feature defenses that are playing at a championship level.

Both teams also have offenses that are it’s own worst enemies.

In this preview, we are referring to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have battled back from a 1-4 start to win four straight and vault themselves into a playoff spot at 5-4.

They’re currently in the #2 wildcard spot in the AFC.

Penalties, dropped passes, untimely fumbles, and sometimes mindnumbingly stupid play calling have contributed to a Steelers offense that has the capabilities to do so much more with the talent they possess.

Everyone understands that Mason Rudolph isn’t Ben Roethlisberger. We’re talking about a future Hall of Famer… still, Rudolph has plenty of pedigree coming from Oklahoma State. The offense has a Pro Bowl running back in James Conners. Behind Conner is the versatile Jaylen Samuels. The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL. The receiving corps are young, but very talented with the trio of Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. Vance McDonald is a tremendous tight end when healthy.

So what is the problem? Not enough practice? Lack of focus?

Perhaps fewer passing attempts are the root of the problem, according to one theory by Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

“Everyone wants to make a play, and they want to have opportunities,” Fichtner said. “And maybe when there might be fewer opportunities in the pass game … maybe they overdo it sometimes and want to make more out of than what it really is.”

Dropped passes have plagued the team all season, and the squad added five more to the list last week vs the LA Rams. For the year, the Steelers have 17 total.

“With the lesser amount of opportunities, that’s definitely a real thing for receivers,” McDonald said, “because the last thing you want to know and carry with you, is, ‘I didn’t perform well.’ That’s going to hit everyone to some degree.”

When the receivers do manage to catch a pass and make a big play, they’ve fumbled an astounding six times.

One was in the Ravens game when Smith-Schuster had the ball punched out of his arm, a turnover that likely cost the team a big victory over the Ravens.

“I think what happens is if you’re not touching the ball a lot,” Fichtner said of skill players, “especially, skilled players, when they get the ball, they want to go make something happen and want to be a playmaker like they are.

“But every time isn’t the time to, so (in trying too hard) we put the ball on the ground. We have left some balls out there, just in catching. And I think those are the small things this week that we just have to keep talking about that are so important.”

Rudolph does his best to keep everyone positive, even though his player’s actions are having an effect on his stats.

“We have a lot of great receivers, a lot of great playmakers,” Rudolph said, “but hey, everyone’s human. Sometimes we don’t catch the ball. Sometimes I miss a pass. That happens, and we move forward.”

Regardless of shining sunshine up their player’s butts , it’s time for the skill players to take some accountability and start making plays instead of hindering it.

Steelers Keys to Success

Mason Rudolph

As the weeks have gone on, Rudolph has seen the playbook open up more and more. Now it’ time for Rudolph to find his confidence and stride, and make the most of every opportunity. That said…

End the Mental Mistakes!

No more excuses. We are past the mid-season point now, and it’s time to start peaking. The dropped passes and turnovers need to cease immediately.

Stop Nick Chubb

The Browns have a pretty good running game if they ever choose to use it. Behind Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Cleveland can cause some damage. Stop the running game and force the Browns into being one dimensional… that relying on the arm and wits of Baker Mayfield.

Hungry for Baker’s Turnovers

Force Mayfield to be the hero and bring the dogs when they do. Pressure on Mayfield behind a terrible Brown’s line should feed a hungry Steelers defense plenty of juicy turnovers.

Prediction

This is a mammoth game for both teams. For Pittsburgh, a record of 6-4 awaits, with a trip to winless Cincinnati next on the docket. It would basically end Cleveland’s season, but… if the Browns win, that gives them two straight, with Miami next, and then a shot at the Steelers again in two weeks.

We like option A.

The Browns are gifted at wide receiver.

“From a talent standpoint, there’s no tandem that approaches those guys,” Mike Tomlin said. “They’re impactful.”

The Steelers secondary feels it is up to the challenge.

“They’re two No. 1 receivers,” Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said in regards to Odell Beckhan, Jr. and Jarvis Landry. “so we’ve got to make sure we know where they are at all times.”

This defense has been playing lights out since the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins. They relish opportunities to make a difference now.

“Those guys are amazing talents, so it’ll be a good challenge for us to compete with those guys,” corner Steven Nelson said. “It’ll be fun. You try to reduce the big, explosive plays that those guys are capable of.”

If the Browns were smart, they would run as much as they could, trying to utilize it’s best assets in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. It would help the Browns in time of possession if they could string together a couple of long scoring drives with a successful rushing attack. It won’t be easy against a Steelers defense that is playing lights out, but it’s better than the alternative of dropping Mayfield back 30-40 times and watching him get pummeled by the likes of T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cam Heyward.

That said, expect Browns head coach Freddy Kitchens to outsmart himself and walk right into the Steelers waiting hands.

It will be cold and the Dawg Pound will be barking, but this might be the game where everything finally starts coming all together.

What better place to do that other than in Cleveland, in front of their fans, crushing their season hopes yet again, as this team has done year in and year our since the early 90’s?

Expect to see the running game get back on track with James Conner back from injury. This is a “man up” game for every player on this team, especially if they have dreams of chasing down the Ravens for the AFC North title.

If Baker Mayfield didn’t have bad dreams after watching game tape during the week, he will when he hits the sack after this game… pun intended.

Steelers defense will rise again and the offense will show signs of life.

Steelers 27 Browns 16

Game Information

NFL Week 11

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

  • Venue: Browns Stadium, Cleveland, OH.
  • Field: Natural grass
  • Game-time: Thursday, November 14th, at 8:20 pm ET
  • TV: FOX/NFL Network (Local on WPGH-TV)
  • Announcers: Joe Buck (play-by-play) Troy Aikman (analyst) Erin Andrews (reporter)
  • Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE & WBGG 970 AM
  • Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) Craig Wolfley (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
  • Internet Broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
  • Weather at Kickoff: Partly Cloudy. 33 with winds 10 mph SSW.
  • Vegas Line: Cleveland -3.5

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns History

Series History: Began in 1950

Steelers are 73-58-1 overall vs Browns

  • At Home: 45-21
  • On Road: 28-37-1
  • Post-Season: 2-0
  • Streak: Steelers won the last game.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 28, 2018, in Pittsburgh (Steelers 33 Browns 18)
  • Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 5, 2003, in Pittsburgh
    (Pittsburgh 36, Cleveland 33) – AFC Wild Card

Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterbacks

Mason Rudolph*

The 2nd year gunslinger out of Oklahoma State takes over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Is slowly but surely improving and gaining confidence by the week.

  • Passing Yards: 1,330
  • TD Passes: 11
  • Interceptions: 4
  • Sacks: 9
  • Yards Rushing: 23
  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Devlin Hodges

The former Samford quarterback showed no fear when he was forced into action vs the Ravens. Did well in first NFL start vs Chargers.

  • Passing Yards: 200
  • TD Passes: 1
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Sacks: 0
  • Yards Rushing: 28
  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Ben Roethlisberger (Injured)

Out for the season with an elbow injury.

  • Passing Yards: 351
  • TD Passes: 0
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Sacks: 2
  • Yards Rushing: 7
  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Running Backs

James Conner*

Conner has picked it up big time the past two games he’s played. May have to shake off a little rust after missing the last pair of games.

  • Yards Rushing: 380
  • Rushing TD’s: 4
  • Receptions: 29
  • Yards Receiving: 236
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Jaylen Samuels

Dynamic player who can play several positions. Dangerous as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

  • Yards Rushing: 89
  • Rushing TD’s: 1
  • Receptions: 29
  • Yards Receiving: 167
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Benny Snell, Jr. (Injured)

  • Yards Rushing: 118
  • Rushing TD’s: 0
  • Receptions: 1
  • Yards Receiving: 14
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Trey Edmunds

Edmunds will serve as Samuel’s back-up if Conner can’t suit up.

  • Yards Rushing: 74
  • Rushing TD’s: 0
  • Receptions: 2
  • Yards Receiving: 14
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Roosevelt Nix (Fullback)

  • Yards Rushing: 0
  • Rushing TD’s: 0
  • Receptions: 2
  • Yards Receiving: 4
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Wide Receivers

Juju Smith-Schuster*

Smith-Schuster is set to prove he is a true No.1 receiver for the Steelers, but now has two fumbles that have cost the team two probable wins.

Receptions: 36

  • Receiving Yards: 44503
  • Receiving TD’s: 3

Diontae Johnson*

Talented rookie who makes the most of every reception. Blessed with wicked moves in open space.

  • Receptions: 30
  • Receiving Yards: 363
  • Receiving TD’s: 3

James Washington

He is ready to have a breakout season and establish himself as a big-time playmaker in the NFL.

  • Receptions: 20
  • Receiving Yards: 320
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Ryan Switzer (Injured)

Sparingly used with Big Ben out. Will return punts and kicks.

  • Receptions: 8
  • Receiving Yards: 27
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Johnny Holton

Steelers deep threat, but has yet to record a catch.

  • Receptions: 0
  • Receiving Yards: 0
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Tight Ends

Vance McDonald*

The Vanimal, when unleashed, is a sight to see. He could be a major part of offense if utilized correctly and if he stays healthy.

  • Receptions: 25
  • Receiving Yards: 187
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Nate Vannett

The Ohio State product was acquired from the Seahawks earlier this season.

  • Receptions: 5
  • Receiving Yards: 56
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

*Denotes Starter

Offensive Line

Defense (Base 3-4)

Placekicker

Chris Boswell

  • Extra Points: 19-19
  • FG: 18-19
  • 0-19: 1-1 / 20-29:  6-6 / 30-39: 4-4 / 40-49:  6-6 / 50+:  1-2
  • Long: 51

Punter

Jordan Berry

  • Yards per Punt: 46.1

Kickoff Returners

Ryan Switzer

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: 18.4
  • Return TD’s: 0

Johnny Holton

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: 18.3
  • Return TD’s: 0

Punt Returner

Ryan Switzer

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: 3.6
  • Return TD’s: 0

Scouting the Cleveland Browns

Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield*

Majorly underachieving in his sophomore season. Provides more turnovers than a bakery.

  • Passing Yards: 12,201
  • TD Passes: 9
  • Interceptions: 12
  • Sacks: 25
  • Yards Rushing: 376
  • Rushing TD’s: 1

Running Backs

Nick Chubb*

Browns offensive MVP… gets the tough yards and is excellent catching passes out of the backfield.

  • Yards Rushing: 919
  • Rushing TD’s: 6
  • Receptions: 27
  • Yards Receiving: 166
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Kareem Hunt

  • Yards Rushing: 30
  • Rushing TD’s: 0
  • Receptions: 1
  • Yards Receiving: 7
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham, Jr.*

Not living up to the hype he should be providing.

  • Receptions: 44
  • Receiving Yards: 632
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Jarvis Landry*

Leads the team in receptions and touchdown catches.

  • Receptions: 45
  • Receiving Yards: 652
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Damien Ratley

Receptions: 8

  • Receiving Yards: 103
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Antonio Callaway

  • Receptions: 8
  • Receiving Yards: 89
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Tight Ends

Ricky Seals-Jones*

  • Receptions: 9
  • Receiving Yards: 155
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Demetrius Harris

  • Receptions: 10
  • Receiving Yards: 92
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

*Denotes Starter

Defense (Base 4-3)

The Browns have some talent, but it has been up and down. They are allowing 24.6 points per game and can be had on the ground, as they give up over 134 yards per game. Good pass rush, generating 26 sacks on the year so far.

Placekicker

Austin Seibert

  • Extra Points: 13-16
  • FG: 16-16
  • 0-19: 0-0 / 20-29: 5-5 / 30-39: 6-6 / 40-49: 5-5 / 50+: 0-0
  • Long: 55

Injury Report (11/13/19)

Pittsburgh

  • Out: WR Ryan Switzer (Back), RB Benny Snell Jr. (Knee), FB Roosevelt Nix (Knee)
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable: LB Anthony Chickillo (Ribs), CB Joe Haden (Illness)

Cleveland

Offensive Stats

Total yards per game

  • Pittsburgh: 296.1
  • Cleveland: 370.7

Passing yards per game

  • Pittsburgh: 212.9
  • Cleveland: 246.8

Rushing yards per game

  • Pittsburgh: 83.2
  • Cleveland: 123.9

Points per game

  • Pittsburgh: 21.4
  • Cleveland: 19

Defensive Stats

Total Yards per game allowed

  • Pittsburgh: 332.2
  • Cleveland: 356

Passing Yards per game allowed

  • Pittsburgh: 226.9
  • Cleveland: 221.1

Rushing Yards per game allowed

  • Pittsburgh: 105.9
  • Cleveland: 134.9

Points Allowed

  • Pittsburgh: 20.1
  • Cleveland: 24.6

Sacks

  • Pittsburgh: 33
  • Cleveland: 26

Interceptions

  • Pittsburgh: 14
  • Cleveland: 4

Fumbles Recovered

  • Pittsburgh: 11
  • Cleveland: 7

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