The Game: The importance of the week 8 matchup between the Browns and the Steelers has turned into a must-win for both teams. The Steelers, coming off two wins, have found themselves at the top of the division. With a record of 3-2-1, they will need to break away from the tie against their first matchup with Cleveland in week 1. The AFC North is strong this year and every game is now even more important than in years past.
For the Browns and coach Hue Jackson to have any chance of making the playoffs, this is even more of a must-win. The team must get through in-house coach turmoil and overcome key player injuries to stop the downward slide of this Browns team. Last Sunday started with coach Jackson on the hot seat but as the week progressed. Tensions calmed and this Sunday will be another fresh start for a coach with one of the worst recorders in NFL history. A win on Sunday would open the door to a new way of viewing the coaching staff and team overall.
The Offense: In all but one game, the Steelers defense has given up 20 plus points. Unlike the previous weeks, the Browns will not get a second chance late in the game. The team striking first could hold on until the end.
Coach Todd Haley should take a look into the past to prepare for the future. When Browns QB Baker Mayfield faced the top Georgia defense at the Rose Bowl in 2017, his first half was some of the best he had played in college. If coach Haley can mimic a style of quick hit play to knock the Steelers out early, as Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley did that night, Mayfield would feel comfortable to open up and be the gunslinger QB the Browns took first overall.
Haley needs to play Mayfield from the shotgun as the Browns offensive line has been subpar over the last few weeks. This will allow him a few extra seconds to make quick reads and get the ball out. Both Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb can handle running from that shotgun position as well.
Tight End David Njoku has finally started to show improvement working with Mayfield. Each week his catch rating has gone up, turning in a 66.7% last week against the Buccaneers. For the Browns to win Sunday, no other player on the offense will need to have “the best game of his life” to help this team win. Njuko will need to be a force as the top check down for a team that’s stalled in the first quarter. He has to be Baker Mayfield’s lifeline on every down.
It’s up to coach Haley to script this game like it’s the last one he’ll ever coach. The gas pedal must be held to the floor and all normal football logic tossed aside. Go for two points on each touchdown. Kick the extra long field if needed. Play to win on every down as if you will not get a second chance. The Steelers offense is fresh after their bye and ready, so keeping the lead is a must.
The Defense: While the Browns defense has been a force for the last 7 weeks, injury has taken its toll. As the 5th ranked offense in the NFL, the Steelers have weapons to spare. With a depleted Browns secondary and the lacking depth on the line, consistent pressure is the only option. Coach Williams was already known as a blitz first style, will need to turn that up a notch on Sunday.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will need to held to under 1.50 seconds to throw on every down. Both Defensive Ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah must collapse the pocket on each play. Garrett will have to perfect his inside spin to keep himself from being walked around Big Ben. Big Ben is a quarterback that likes to pat the ball, this will give them a chance to knock it out.
The Browns do have an option to help in the backfield Sunday. With zero snaps so far this season, the speedster Cornerback Tavierre Thomas could help fill the void left in the Browns secondary by injuries. Thomas, who at one time clocked a 4.30 40 time, could be used at free safety with Defensive Back Damarious Randall moved up to corner. His speed should help take away any missed passes and quickly stop ones that do.
For the win: This is not going to be an easy game for the Browns. It’s going to take all hands on deck fighting until the last minute. From playing to win on offense to overwhelming on defense, the Browns will need to use every trick in the book to overcome a long history of losing this historic game. The year was 2003 and the Browns 1st pick overall Tim Couch lead the team to a win at Heinz Field 33-13. Now 15 years later 1st pick overall Baker Mayfield could be only the second Browns quarterback to pull off a win.
It’s very simple when you step back and see the big picture. Nobody expects the Browns to win this game. So why not just lay it all out like a team that will never play the sport we all love again? Because when you add up all the data, whatever happens, Monday doesn’t matter if you don’t win this Sunday.
Written By: @Chadp71
Edited By: @Robzie_