Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Keys To Victory vs. the Cleveland Browns
5 Keys to Victory: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Cleveland Browns
This Sunday the 4-6 Pittsburgh Steelers travel to the 4-6 Cleveland Browns in a game that carries a great amount of significance in terms of each team keeping their seasons alive, keeping pace with the Cincinnati Bengals and even vying for an AFC Wild Card playoff spot.
It has been a long time since the Steelers played the Browns in a game that held significance for both teams. Nonetheless, this game has the make up of a matchup that could re-ignite a rivalry that has been dead for over 15 years. Plain and simple, this is a huge game for both teams.
Some might think the Steelers will overlook the Browns as they are preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving night game against the Baltimore Ravens. Some might think the Steelers won't be able to get "up" for this game as it is just the Browns. Others might say the weather will hinder the Steelers' ability to pass the ball, ultimately hurting their chances of victory.
Whatever the fans might think, the Steelers will have to bring their 'A' game if they want to leave FirstEnergy Stadium with a victory.
Here are five keys for the Steelers if they plan on having success and ultimately a victory when traveling to Cleveland this Sunday.
5. Run the Football
Running the football isn't the Steelers' forte, but it is something that will be necessary. The national weather service is calling for cold, windy and snowy conditions in Cleveland that could severly hamper the passing attack for both teams.
The weather conditions will really hurt the Steelers who have relied on the pass this season to move the ball on a consistent basis. The Steelers are a team that will still get the ball in the hands of their play makers like Antonio Brown, but the Steelers need to get Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones going if they plan on being able to not only move the football, but grind the clock and keep possession time in favor of Pittsburgh.
4. Make the Browns One Dimensional
The Cleveland Browns have a very limited offense as it stands currently, but the Steelers' defense needs to do their jobs in terms of taking away the running game of the Browns. If the defense can do that successfully for four quarters it will force the Browns into obvious passing situations. Those situations are where a defense can pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.
The Steelers have given up a lot of yardage on the ground this season, but if they can stop the Browns in the weather that is being predicted, then keeping the ball in Jason Campbell's hands will be the best course of action for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their defense.
3. Create Turnovers
The Steelers' defense started off the year slow in this category. The Steelers were turning the ball over at a tremendous rate and not causing turnovers on the defensive side of the football. The tides seem to be turning in the turnover category in recent weeks.
The Steelers have now garnered 10 turnovers this season, and the big defensive play has finally started to rear its head at the Steelers once again. Will Allen's big fourth quarter interception last Sunday was the perfect example of a big play at a big juncture in a game.
The Steelers will need to keep that trend going in Cleveland this Sunday to give their offense favorable field position and a better chance to put points on the board. With points most likely at a premium, field position will be very important.
2. Red Zone Efficiency
Quite frankly, the Steelers have been abysmal in the red zone this season. The play calling has been horrendous and equally horrendous has been the offense's execution in and around the goal line. The Steelers will need to be better in the red zone if they expect to put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals against this difficult Browns' defense.
Steelers still have yet to unleash their best red zone threat in Heath Miller, and hopefully he will get plenty of looks in the red area. Heath had a chance last week and almost made a fantastic touchdown catch before dropping the football. The biggest surprise and threat in the red zone this season so far has been Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery has seven touchdown passes and looks to be an option that Ben Roethlisberger looks to early and often in crucial situations.
If the Steelers can see Shaun Suisham kicking more point after attempts and less field goal attempts, it will mean that the Steelers are doing their job in the red zone.
1. Splash Plays
The Steelers have only had a handful of splash plays this year. If you are unaware of the term, that is the term Mike Tomlin gives to plays that make a difference such as a crucial turnover, a blocked punt or a big offensive play. The Steelers need to take advantage of a tough Browns' defense and create splash plays when they become available. Look for Antonio Brown to be the man to look for on offense to provide a spark and Troy Polamalu to make a play on defense that could turn the tide of this game.
The same can be said on the defensive side of the field. Don't allow the Browns to get those splash plays the way the Oakland Raiders did a few weeks ago. Force them into situations that favor the defense and the Steelers will be on their way.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers can accomplish these five keys to success, then they will be heading back to Pittsburgh with a 5-6 record and beginning preparation for a Thanksgiving night game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz