By: CJ Lester, @CJLester58
The Pittsburgh Steelers go into Week 6 with a 4-0 record. Last week, the Steelers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-29. Tomorrow, the division leading Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field for a 5 star-AFC North matchup. The Browns come into this week with a 4-1 record, good enough to be tied for 2nd place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens.
Last week in review
The three things I noted that we should keep an eye on last week were:
- How will the Steelers respond coming out of the forced bye week?
The Steelers started a tad slow last week against the Eagles. The defense forced a 3 and out on the Eagles’ first drive and the Steelers’ offense had great field position to start their opening drive on their own 46. The first offensive possession was disappointing and the team was forced to punt after gaining only one first down despite the stellar field position. That drive led to a punt, but the offense only punted one more time the rest of the game. The two punts, the 4th quarter drive that ended in a fumble lost by TE Eric Ebron, and the final drive that ended with the Steelers in victory formation were the only 4 drives that didn’t end in Steelers’ points. It should be noted that 4 of those scoring drives ended with Steelers’ rookie WR Chase Claypool scoring a touchdown. The Steelers’ defense did give up 367 total yards to the Eagles’ offense and WR Travis Fulgham ended up with a monster game catching 10 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Was I looking for a more dominant performance against a beaten-up Eagles’ team? Yes, but like I have said before a win is a win, no matter how pretty. The important thing is that the Steelers are 4-0 entering Week 6.
- Will the Steelers be able to protect Big Ben?
After the Steelers’ offensive line gave up a sack on the first drive to the Eagles’ impressive pass rushing unit, they did not give up another sack the rest of the game. The Steelers’ offensive line finished only allowing 3 QB Hits and 1 sack the entire game. Rookie OL Kevin Dotson did an excellent job filling in for injured guard David DeCastro and helping keep QB Ben Roethlisberger upright.
- Will the Steelers be able to capitalize on turnovers with Touchdowns instead of Field Goals?
The Steelers were able to force two turnovers last week, both being interceptions from Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz. On the Eagles first drive in the second half, Steelers’ CB Steven Nelson picked off a pass intended for TE Zach Ertz gifting the Steelers’ offense with excellent field possession starting on the Eagles’ 23-yard line. The Steelers’ offense was able to capitalize on this interception when RB James Conner scored on a 1-yard run. The other Nelson interception put the nail in the coffin for the Eagles’ offense and any attempt to get back into the game on a late drive. There was no need for the Steelers’ offense to try to capitalize off of this turnover because the game was in hand, and victory formation ran out the clock.
Let’s take a look at 3 things we should watch for Week 6 against the Browns:
- How will Chase Claypool follow up last week’s performance?
Steelers rookie WR Claypool finished last week’s game with 7 receptions, 110 yards and 3 TDs, 3 carries for 6 yards and 1 TD. It was definitely the rookie’s coming out party last week. Will he be able to follow up last week’s performance with the big opportunity to start this week? WR Diontae Johnson has been ruled out with a back injury, so we should expect Claypool to get plenty of opportunities in the passing game. Let’s see if Roethlisberger will again try to feed the hot hand this week. Claypool has an opportunity to eventually be a star in this league with the combination of his size and speed. This would be a great week to see an encore performance.
- Steelers pass rush vs. Browns Offensive Line
This will definitely be a matchup to watch all game long. The Steelers’ defense leads the league in sacks with 5 sacks per game. The Browns’ offensive line has done a great job of keeping QB Baker Mayfield upright for the most part this season, only allowing 7 sacks in 5 games played. Will the Steelers dominant pass rush be able to put pressure on Mayfield tomorrow?
- Will Big Ben’s dominant record against the Browns continue?
No QB has owned another NFL team quite like Roethlisberger has owned the Browns throughout his career. Roethlisberger’s record against Cleveland is 23-2-1, with the two losses being in Cleveland. Roethlisberger has never lost to the Browns in Pittsburgh, posting a perfect 11-0 home record against their “rival.” Will that dominance continue tomorrow afternoon?