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Browns-Steelers: Five keys

Posted Nov 22, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.

>>Get over the Bengals’ loss. It won’t be easy. The manner in which they lost at Cincinnati, playing well enough defensively but giving the game away on special teams and offense, is the sort of thing that can linger. The Browns can’t allow that to happen. They need to continue to recognize that the opportunity to remain in postseason contention, while damaged, is still very much alive. They must understand that they have another good chance to beat their fiercest AFC North rival at home and rekindle the optimism that swept through the team and the Browns’ fan base after the Week 9 win against Baltimore.

>>Take advantage of the Steelers’ vulnerable run defense. The Browns haven’t proven that they can run successfully against any opponent. However, the Steelers have the 26th-ranked run defense in the NFL, and it is reasonable to think that the Browns could get something going on the ground for the first time this season. Considering that the weather – predicted to be extremely cold and windy – could very well make passing difficult, the Browns certainly will make the effort to do so. Expect to see more of Chris Ogbonnaya, who had a 43-yard carry against Cincinnati and offers the most explosiveness of the Browns’ running backs. Fozzy Whittaker should also get his share of carries as the Browns look to challenge the perimeter of an aging Steeler defense.

>>Jason Campbell rebounds with a solid showing. Campbell doesn’t have to be great, but he cannot be a primary reason the Browns lose as he was with three interceptions and general ineffectiveness against the Bengals. He needs to trust his ability to find available targets and allow himself to cut loose with longer throws rather than looking for safer options underneath coverage. Given that the Steelers’ secondary does not have a whole lot of speed, Campbell is likely to find more open receivers than he did against Cincinnati. On a day when wind isn’t likely to be friendly to the idea of putting the ball in the air, Campbell has to rely on his experience in terms of how, when, and where he delivers his passes to avoid interceptions. That is not saying he should be cautious. He simply needs to be smart, which he is, while making the plays when they need to be made.

>>The secondary can never forget about Ben Roethlisberger’s time-buying skills. Few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL do a better job of squeezing out extra time in the pocket than Big Ben. He does it with an uncanny knack for drifting away from the pass rush while always keeping his eyes focused downfield. He does it with the sheer strength he has to remain upright and still deliver the ball even with defenders hanging onto him. And he does it with a keen sense of knowing where all of his talented receivers are at all times while trusting that they know he will get them the ball at some point, and will do their part to extend routes accordingly. Even the best cornerbacks can struggle under such circumstances because they rarely face that sort of quarterback.

>>Jordan Cameron finds his way back into the offense. The guy is still among the more athletically gifted tight ends in the NFL, and he has gone far too long without being the difference-maker the Browns need him to be and that he is more than capable of being. This game should afford him opportunities to make a significant impact. The Browns will seek, and probably find, some coverage mismatches that Cameron can exploit. To win this game, the Browns need Cameron, Josh Gordon, and other pass-catchers to step up and play their best because the Steelers are bound to have their share of success through the air.

>>Carucci’s Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.