Finally, a Steelers game that incited pure joy, rather than optimism tinged with panic that they could somehow lose the game in the dying seconds. The Browns looked promising before they jumped into the bear trap that is Heinz Field and the Steelers defense.
If you want the short/less Pittsburgh-centric version of this review, check out our Skewed perspective on things.
Week six in review: Cleveland Browns 7 – 38 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns came to Heinz Field riding on a wave of optimism from several top drawer offensive performances. Many people were questioning where the defensive secondary superstar Minkah Fitzpatrick was hiding and if the Browns receiving superstars could exploit it.
One pick six later, every seems suspiciously quiet. There was a reason people were not throwing the ball over the middle of the field on the Steelers defense. This week, that reason seized on someone foolhardy enough to try. We could go on for hours about the Pittsburgh defense, but they summed it up best:
Let’s dive into the rest of the performance.
It’s still difficult to tell whether James Conner is simply rounding into form as the season goes on and he remains healthy, or if a more explosive back would be dropping 200 yards a game. Either way, the rushing attack is punishing opponents – ranking ninth in the league in total rushing yardage, with Conner himself hitting over 100 in three of their five games. He seems to relish the tough, one cut runs, but struggles to find the holes when they’re crowded. A nice piece of analysis below from @ThatBlitzGuy on Twitter:
Not missing a step
Rookie Kevin Dotson has still not allowed a sack in pass protection since he was forced into the line up. In fact, he’s currently rated the best pass blocker in the NFL. That also means that Ben Roethlisberger is able to get the ball out quickly to his playmakers. All pro David DeCastro logged a limited practice this week in preparation for the Titans this weekend, but Maurkice Pouncey was a DNP with a foot injury. The Steelers O-line hasn’t missed a step with various people dropping in and out of the lineup – only allowing eight sacks (22nd) while driving a top ten rushing attack. The Steelers front office hit with the majority of their draft picks this year, and it shows.
Pick your poison
Who cares if the ball isn’t going deep when you have the supporting cast the Steelers have put together. It seems like a rotating cast of weekly superstars in Pittsburgh at the moment, as this week James Washington stepped in to soak up targets (four catches from seven targets). Chase Claypool added his usual dose of big play highlights to the mix. At some point defenses are going to have to remove some attention from JuJu Smith-Schuster and apply it across the receiving corps.
When this happens, JuJu should be free to roam over the middle of the field, where he does his most effective work. This Steelers offense isn’t even in top gear and they are consistently dropping 30+ points on opponents. The battle for the North is well and truly ON!
Next week: time for a titanic battle
Jack is an NFL nerd with a passion for player stories and watching too much draft coverage. He's a DB coach with the Exeter Demons University team in the UK and a Steelers fan.