Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Crossroads Game

There may not be a more fascinating contest in the NFL this season. The Steelers vs. Browns on Sunday in Cleveland is sure to be full of intensity, drama and twists 'n turns nobody can predict.

This is a crossroads game for the Browns. Win, and they may confidently build on the momentum they've gained so far this year. Lose, and it's more of the same ole same old.

It's a pivotal game for the Steelers, too. Todd Haley's offense MUST score more than 10 points, which is all they managed in Jacksonville. That's ridiculous.

And Dick LeBeau's defense must withstand an aggressive uptempo, no-huddle offense fueled by Cleveland's impressive running game. As noted previously on Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, the Browns are No Longer a Running Joke.

The Browns run the ball even when they are way down on the scoreboard.

Fueled by their running game, the Browns have proven the ability come back from large deficits: 24 points in Pittsburgh and 25 points in Nashville. In last Sunday's game vs. the Titans, Cleveland ran the ball 25 times after they'd fallen behind by 25 points. Their run/pass ratio for the game was balanced: 36 runs and 37 passes.

  • In Jacksonville, Steelers' running backs had 25 rushing attempts, and Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass 41 times, which includes five sacks and 35 pass attempts.
  • Against Tampa Bay, Steelers' running backs had 24 carries, and Ben Roethlisberger dropped back 45 times, including five sacks.
  • In the convincing win over Carolina, the running backs (Bell and Blount) had 31 carries, and Ben Roethlisberger dropped back 31 times. An even 50-50.

Which Team Runs More?
For all the talk about Cleveland's commitment to the run and Todd Haley's spotty run/pass ratios, it should be noted: Pittsburgh has more rushing attempts than Cleveland: 136 (11th in the NFL) to 127 (17th in the NFL) this year.

Questions abound: Which team on Sunday will be more successful running the ball? Will Roethlisberger exploit a Cleveland secondary likely to give substantial playing time rookie Justin Gilbert, the first-rounder who has been less than impressive so far, even according to Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine?

Lots of questions, but one thing is certain: The Steelers' offense MUST put more than 10 points on the scoreboard.

No comments: