‘We’re Not Just Playing The Browns Offense:’ Steelers Emphasize Importance Of Not Overlooking Cleveland
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With the news of Joe Burrow’s season-ending wrist injury, the Steelers back-half of the schedule is now littered with backups and subpar quarterback play. They’re getting a crack at a backup rookie quarterback on Sunday when they take on the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The Steelers aren’t overlooking Cleveland and Thompson-Robinson on Sunday though, with multiple players emphasizing the need to get a win on Sunday
“We gotta win. We have to win,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said, via Steelers.com. “Take it one week at a time and everything will handle itself. You can’t be looking too far off and write off a rookie quarterback making his first or second start in his career. It’s all about what we can do this week to provide a win and then we’ll figure out all the other stuff later.”
With Cleveland having an elite defense and Pittsburgh’s offense being one of the worst in the league, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward knows that the offense is going to have their struggles. He’s putting the onus on the defense to try and force turnovers and make Thompson-Robinson uncomfortable, while also stopping the run game. Cleveland has a strong run game, with RB Jerome Ford filling in nicely for the injured Nick Chubb, while Thompson-Robinson can use his legs as well.
“I think one thing we have to realize with this is we’re not just playing the Browns offense, we’re playing the Browns defense as well. And with that, there’s going to be some struggles on our side for the offense. So we view it as we gotta get turnovers, we gotta get after them, we have to stop the run. We have to put them in situations where you can create splash,” Heyward said.
Heyward added that it’s an AFC North game, and those games are always close and always important, no matter who the personnel on the field is.
With the season now entering the home stretch in Week 11, cornerback Patrick Peterson said the Steelers need to separate themselves at this juncture of the season, and now is when the contenders and the pretenders differentiate from one another.
“If we want to be a championship-caliber football team, this is the time where we have to start separating ourselves,” Peterson said.
With four more AFC North games on the docket for Pittsburgh, Peterson said winning on Sunday is a chance for Pittsburgh to start separating themselves from the pack in their own division.
Losing to Cleveland on Sunday is a very real possibility if the Steelers don’t take Cleveland seriously. The Browns gashed Pittsburgh on the ground in Week Two, with Ford accounting for 106 yards on the ground. Cleveland’s defense can also give the Steelers offense fits. Kenny Pickett hasn’t been very good recently, and the Browns defense is keenly aware of that and is going try to make him miserable in front of the Dawg Pound on Sunday.
But Pittsburgh’s defense could be the key if they can force Thompson-Robinson into some mistakes and defend the run better than they did in Week Two. Despite what the rest of the schedule might look like and the possibility that the Steelers could go on a run, they haven’t looked the part of a true contender this season, despite their 6-3 record. They aren’t a good enough team to take any opponent for granted, especially not one in their own division.
The Steelers are going to have to be ready on Sunday. It has all the makings of a classic AFC North slugfest, and the Steelers offense is going to have to show they can move the ball. As Heyward said, they’re not only playing the Browns offense, and he freely admitted the offense is probably going to struggle. If the Steelers can’t move the ball, it doesn’t matter who’s under center.
Hopefully, the defense can help set up the offense with some splash plays and Pittsburgh can move to 7-3. But the players know as well as anyone that it won’t be easy.