I said last week that if the Steelers had any hope of turning things around this season, that they had to beat the Lions. They did just that, in a pretty incredible come-from-behind win. But they can’t take their foot off the gas; they need to keep to winning. After beating the Lions and finding themselves a game out of the final AFC Wild Card spot, each game now becomes the biggest game of the season.
Today’s matchup against the Browns is now the biggest game of the season. The two teams both have 4-6 records. The Browns are 2-0 against the AFC North at home so far this season. The Steelers lost in Cleveland last year, the infamous game where every running back fumbled the ball at least once (the team total for the day was a whopping seven turnovers). Ben Roethlisberger did not play in the game, however, so I’m feeling a little more confident about their chances today. This could be a trap game for the Steelers, but I really expect them to do what they did two weeks against the Bills: Beat a team they are more talented than in convincing fashion. That doesn’t mean they have to blow the Browns out necessarily, but getting an early lead and never losing it would be convincing. Also by doing all the stuff that generally makes them (and any team) successful—winning the turnover battle, protecting the quarterback, and limiting mistakes.
Things I’d like to see today:
- The offense continuing to fire on all cylinders. The Browns defense is much better than the Lions defense (at least in terms of yardage given up per game), so this could be more challenging than last week. Especially with Joe Haden on the other side of the ball. However, the Browns are still giving up close to 24 points/game.
- The defense playing strong against the Jason Campbell-led Browns offense. Absolutely no reason why the defense should not dominate this matchup.
- More turnovers. Not meaning more than the three the defense forced last week (though that would be awesome). Just more turnovers in general. The three turnovers last week led to 17 points for the Steelers, and wound up being the difference in a 10-point game.
- Continued strong offensive line play. What the O-line did last week against the Lions defensive line cannot be overlooked. Ben only getting sacked once last week was huge, and it’d be nice to see this trend continue moving forward.
Things I do not want to see:
- The Steelers playing down to their competition. This is something we’ve seen in the past, and I really hope we don’t see it today. As bad as this Steelers team has been this season, it’s still more talented than this Browns team. That talent begins with the quarterbacks. No reason why Jason Campbell should beat Ben Roethlisberger.
- The offense coming out flat. Last week marked the first time this season that the Steelers scored on the opening drive. This team plays much better when they have a lead, so it’d be nice to see the offense put up some points early in the game.
- The offensive line regressing and Ben getting sacked 4 or 5 times. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- A loss. A loss would be so hugely deflating for this team. Not even in terms of playoffs, though a loss today would definitely hurt in that area. I’d like to see this team finish the season strong, regardless of making the postseason. Also, you can’t lose to the Browns in Cleveland two years in a row. It’s just not right.
- Big game for Heath Miller. Heath really hasn’t had a big breakout game since his return from injury earlier this season. I think he has that today, complete with a few touchdowns.
- A better running game by the Steelers. Not sure why I think this, when the rushing game hasn’t looked so hot this season. Maybe I’m hoping for this rather than really thinking it will happen.
- A splash play from Troy Polamalu. It’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen a big play from Troy. Today he’ll force a fumble or have a pick-six.
- People showing up with pitchforks outside the homes of Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin, should the Steelers lose.