Key matchups for Steelers vs Browns
If you look past the Browns awful record, they have some playmakers on this team in the secondary on defense. On offense it's all about stopping Josh Cribbs and getting pressure on Colt McCoy. You do those things and you win this game.
Steelers Offense - Wallace, Sanders, & Brown won't have a real easy game necessarily. The Browns have the #1 pass defense in the league overall allowing 173.3 ypg through the air and 6.6 yards per pass play. They also rank near the top in opponents completion percentage, allowing 55% of the pass plays to be completed. This is by far the strength of their entire team, let alone just their defense. Ben is going to have to be careful to not try and thread too many passes into double coverage. He's also going to have to make sure that if throws one up that only his guy is going to be able to catch it.
Ben should be able to have time to throw and if that is the case, then his propensity to hang onto the ball could allow his WR's time to get open by having the play extended. That will play to our benefit but it's not necessarily going to be a big night passing wise for Ben overall.
On the flip side, they are ranked 31st in the league in rush defense allowing 151 ypg on the ground and 4.4 ypc average. That plays right into an offensive line kind of day and a big day for Mendenhall and Redman. Plus the Steelers will have Ramon Foster back in the lineup.
Steelers defense: The Browns offense is ranked 24th in the league in passing, at 197 ypg. Rushing, they are ranked 30th in the league, gaining about 93 ypg on the ground.
The Steelers front 7, even without Lamarr Woodley should be able to get after Colt McCoy and get pressure on him. James Harrison will have his hands full with Joe Thomas but I expect Deebo will still win many of those battles. This will be a game where Jason Worilds will be expected to put on a good performance; with Woodley extremely doubtful as of Thursday.
The rush defense should have no problems stopping the Browns ground game, and as long as they do that it will put the onus completely on McCoy to carry this team through the air, or try too. The Steelers secondary is playing well enough right now that they should smother every Browns receiver without much of a problem.
Let's not forget the Special Teams who have been top flight this season in both coverage and returns. Antonio Brown is a budding star in the return game and returned a punt 60 yds for a TD in the Bengals game. Cam Heyward also blocked the Browns FG attempt on their opening drive. Splash plays like that will completely deflate an opposition and energize the Steelers.
Having said all that, the Steelers just need to come to play and take care of business. If they do that they will win. If they let the Browns hang around or start out slow and with no enthusiasm, it will give McCoy and his group a lot of confidence and sometimes that can come back to bite you.