The Cleveland Browns certainly have the Pittsburgh Steelers' attention this week heading into the second and final game between these AFC North teams this regular season.
When the Browns nearly pulled off a miraculous upset at Heinz Field in the season opener, that comeback was largely due to a running game that tallied 191 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in their zone-blocking scheme that the Steelers' defense struggled to stop.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon shined a light on why the Browns had success running the football, and that would be by utilizing illegal chop-blocking as a technique in their zone-blocking scheme.
"It happens a lot (chop-blocking) with this team, it happened to me three times in the first game," McLendon told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's hard for me to tell, it's hard for them to call it."
However, McLendon and the Steelers' defense aren't using the Browns blocking methods as an excuse for poor play.
"It's not my concern, if I play better technique, those situations won't happen." "You have to do what you have to do to win. I understand they're trying to win just like we're trying to win. Would I like to not be chop-blocked or cut? Yeah, but that's football. We're doing what it takes to win."
As a unit, the Steelers' defense has buckled down in stopping the opponent's running attack in recent weeks. In their last three games, the Steelers have given up an average of 53.6 yards on the ground, a vast improvement over the first two games where they surrendered 191 yards to the Browns and 157 to the Baltimore Ravens for an average of 174 yards per game.
"We're still a work in progress but guys are getting better with their technique," Cameron Heyward said. "We're being more sound. We're not seeing these 80-yard plays down the field or 60. We're trying to stop them at the line of scrimmage, or if they do get them, get them on the ground as soon as possible."
"We have to do a better job setting the edge," Heyward said, "and, if they do cut the ball back, we have to make sure we're in the right gaps so guys on the backside don't get cut off."
The Steelers will be prepared for the Browns' zone blocking scheme, as well as their blocking techniques, but whether they can stop the run will be the true indicator as to who will win this AFC North matchup Sunday.