For as good as Cleveland's offense has been in spurts this season, its defense simply hasn't been good. It sits right now at 27th in the league against the pass and 30th against the run. While the Steelers' first half of dominance against the Browns in their Week 1 win shouldn't be duplicated, Cleveland's lack of defensive line support should be exploited. The Steelers can run the ball successfully as well and their running game should be the main point of this offense.
I've made little effort to hide my appreciation for Brian Hoyer as a quarterback, but I feel like, at some point, he's going to return to earth. How long will it take until Hoyer has that classic 54-percent completion game along with three picks and four sacks? It has to come at some point...right? Cleveland has done an outstanding job of protecting him, but with enough tape on exactly how offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is doing that, expect the Steelers to find a crack or two in their armor and exploit it.
The Laws of Turnovers
Highlights from the Steelers' Week 1 win over the Cleveland Browns
The fewest amount of turnovers in a single season is 10, set by the 2010 New England Patriots. The 2011 San Francisco 49ers had 11. When you think of the top-seeded Patriots in 2010, or the 13-3 49ers of 2011, do you see strong likenesses with the 2014 Cleveland Browns? Through five games, they can run the ball like the 49ers did, and Hoyer may have been on that 2010 Patriots team but the streak of turnover-free football the Browns have right now is nothing short of amazing. But this stat appears primed to regress to the mean. Running back Ben Tate has fumbled in one of every 45 carries he's had as a pro, not exactly outstanding. Their other two running backs, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, are rookies. Also impressive, incredibly so, they have only one turnover as a team so far this season. That has to end eventually.
Yes, it's borderline jinxing it. Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 vs. the Cleveland Browns and no quarterback, through 19 games, has a better record against any opponent in league history. Granted, many of those Browns teams were poor, and this could be the best one he's faced, but there's a reason he has put together that mark over time. He has a big advantage in this game, simply due to the athleticism of the receivers around him and the degraded nature of the Browns secondary. If cornerback Joe Haden plays, he's not 100 percent, and he's not going to be able to cover Antonio Brown without help. If Haden doesn't play, a rookie will be on the field, either Justin Gilbert or K'Waun Williams, who also won't be able to cover Antonio Brown without help.
Balancing of the Horses
What's more, Roethlisberger will distribute the ball, even if it's a bit slanted toward Brown. Markus Wheaton had a big game in Week 1 (six catches, 97 yards) but it barely registered in comparison to Brown's five-catch, 116-yard performance. Roethlisberger hit eleven receivers in the Steelers' Week 5 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's distribution, and the Browns' secondary isn't deep enough to defend on that level. The Steelers' offense just has too much firepower and, in the end, it'll be a higher-scoring game with the Steelers able to salt away the clock in the latter stage of what will be a tight and highly-competitive game.
Be sure to tune into Steelers Final Score, BTSC's postgame wrap-up and call-in show immediately following the Steelers' Week 6 game vs. Cleveland. Listen to it by clicking on this link.