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Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland Preview Article


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NFL Week 3 Thursday Night Football: Steelers vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
Thursday, September 22 at 8:15 p.m. ET (Prime Video) at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland

The Joe Woods Effect

Cleveland's defense has been a mess, and it isn't primarily explainable by the quality of its personnel.

After two games, the Browns rank 26thin scoring defense. They're allowing 27.5 points per game.

Moreover, they rank 26thin passing defense as opposing quarterbacks are averaging 258 yards per game.

What's particularly disturbing about these stats is the lesser quality of competition against which they were accumulated.

In Week 1, Cleveland faced a Carolina team that, in the latter's other game so far, scored 16 points against the Giants.

Most recently, the Browns faced a Jet squad that, in its other game this season, mustered nine points against Baltimore.

Offenses are overachieving in terms of scoring when they face Cleveland primarily because of defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

Busted Coverages

Lapses in pass defense largely explain opposing offenses' overachievement against Cleveland.

For Carolina, Baker Mayfield averaged 8.7 yards per attempt compared to five yards per attempt in his game against the Giants.

In a similar vein, Joe Flacco for the Jets averaged 1.8 more yards per attempt when playing the Browns than when he played Baltimore.

Both quarterbacks, moreover, achieved season-long pass completions.

Besides taking advantage of big-play opportunities yielded by Cleveland's pass defense, opposing quarterbacks exploit Woods' characteristic zone coverage and the cushions that his cornerbacks grant opposing wide receivers.

Steeler quarterback Mitch Trubisky and his team's pass offense received criticism for being afraid to throw deeper passes against New England.

Against a wildly less competent defense, Trubisky will be able to be more aggressive.

Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky will gladly face Joe Woods' defense and not just for its bad mistakes.

Trubisky, in Week 1, suffered a 58.5 passer rating against man coverage but accomplished a 193.8 passer rating against zone.

This ability to thrive against zone coverage is crucial because Woods is known for employing zone.

Moreover, Trubisky is, statistically speaking, awful under pressure.

Woods, though, is characteristically averse to blitzing, which is why Flacco was sacked only 4.26 percent of the time despite having to rely on a subpar offensive line.

Trubisky's Mobility

While Pittsburgh's offensive line has certainly elicited its fair share of criticism, Trubisky has an advantage that Flacco lacked: mobility.

Athletically, Trubisky brings an upgrade over Flacco and over recent Steeler quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger was old and slower, Mason Rudolph was likewise a bigger and slower guy, and so on.

Trubisky, though, has demonstrated throughout his career an aptitude for running.

Each season, he has a long run of over 20 yards and he finishes a season with between 200-400 rushing yards, approximately.

In addition to buying him more time to throw, his mobility makes him fit with Matt Canada's offense.

Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator favors a mobile passing game in which his quarterback performs bootlegs, read-options, and the like.

Suitably, Trubisky is weaker when confined to the pocket and prefers to make decisions outside of it.

Overall, Matt Canada's offense will look vastly more competent against Cleveland's unsteady defense.

Jacoby Brissett

This game might look like an easy "under" in view of the fact that two low-profile quarterbacks are competing against each other,

But such an attitude overlooks each quarterback's matchup edge against the opposing defense.

Brissett is not a primary offensive factor because Cleveland's offense revolves around Nick Chubb and the Browns' superb ground game.

But Brissett will contribute more than his typical short passes.

Crucially, he can run. Against the Jets, for example, he amassed 43 rushing yards.

Last season, Pittsburgh allowed opposing quarterbacks to rush for 394 yards on 74 attempts (kneel-downs included), which amounts to 5.3 YPC.

With TJ Watt injured and Pittsburgh consequently missing a huge impetus for its pass rush, Brissett will have time to operate and to scramble.

Nick Chubb

Of course, Chubb and his 228 rushing yards on 5.8 YPC are central to Cleveland's momentum on offense.

He gladly faces a Steeler run defense that, like it was last year as measured by runs per game, could be the NFL's worst.

New England exploited Pittsburgh's run defense as it utilized Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to run out the clock.

Pittsburgh's defense knew what was coming, but remained powerless to prevent Harris and Stevenson from accruing 118 rushing yards on 24 carries.

Chubb will, among other things, again expose Pittsburgh's trouble with setting the edge.

With Devin Bush also hurt, he will get to face Steeler backup linebackers.

Among other things, Chubb is notoriously tough to tackle.

The Verdict

Both offenses will achieve big plays and generally will do what they like to do.

Best Bet: Over 40 at -110 with BetOnline