Entering the Week Two Monday Night Football matchup against the Cleveland Browns, much of the attention from the Pittsburgh Steelers is focused on figuring out how to slow down running back Nick Chubb and defensive end Myles Garrett.
But for head coach Mike Tomlin, the secondary of the Browns is arguably the strength of the new-look Browns under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Throughout the week, Tomlin has praised the Browns’ cornerback tandem of Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II, along with young cornerback Martin Emerson, for shutting down the Cincinnati Bengals’ high-powered passing attack in Week One.
That praise continued Saturday in his weekly Keys To The Game series for Steelers.com with host Bob Pompeani. On Saturday, Tomlin stated that the Steelers have to “fight fire with fire” against the Browns’ strong secondary, which certainly raises some eyebrows, considering the Steelers should be aiming to run the football more to help control the line of scrimmage and ultimately the game.
“They got a secondary that’s been together for a while now. They disguise very well. They’re very good at man-to-man coverage. Can’t say enough about Ward and Newsome as a tandem two former number ones who have grown up within that organization,” Tomlin said regarding the Cleveland cornerback tandem, according to video via Steelers.com. “And so it’s reasonable to expect them at the stage they’re in their career to be playing the way that they are, so we gotta meet fire with fire and attack that veteran-laden secondary that has continuity.”
After throwing the football 46 times in Week One against a tough San Francisco secondary due to the game getting out of hand, much of the talk leading up to the Monday Night Football showdown with the Browns has been about finding offensive balance once again, running the football and getting back to their identity.
That is especially the case with the Steelers set to be without their top receiver in Diontae Johnson due to a hamstring injury. Yet, for Tomlin, the Steelers have to attack the Browns’ cornerback tandem and meet “fire with fire.”
The good news is that the Steelers still have second-year receiver George Pickens, veteran Allen Robinson II and second-year weapon Calvin Austin III, not to mention tight ends Darnell Washington and Pat Freiermuth.
Seems like that might be against conventional wisdom, but the Steelers are never shy in their intentions, nor will they live in their fears of the Browns’ talented cornerback tandem. What does that mean for Monday night’s matchup? Hopefully it doesn’t mean the Steelers come out and throw the football a ton, aiming to beat the Browns’ strength. Pittsburgh is certainly going to need to make plays in the passing game overall, but it can’t be a pass-first offensive attack on Monday night.
Run the football, take some shots deep, set the tone. Hopefully Pittsburgh can avoid the slow start and not fall into a big hole, becoming one dimensional like it did in Week One.