The Pittsburgh Steelers make their annual trip to Cleveland Browns Stadium for an AFC North Division battle with the Browns on Sunday and they are bringing the NFL’s top-ranked defensive unit with them.
The Steelers are ranked first in total defense and against the pass, and have given up an average of 259.1 total yards and 169.3 passing yards through 10 games. They are fourth against the run and have limited their opponents to 89.8 rushing yards per game.
“The last five weeks, they’re No. 1 for a reason,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “Their scheme is recognizable. You know where their guys are. They pressure. They’re fast; they’re explosive.
“When we write down the guys you’ve got to control, all four linebackers show up. They know their scheme extremely well and they’ve got lots of veterans. I might be off by a year or two, but I was just counting up the experience in the secondary and I think it came to 34 years. They’re veteran guys. They know their scheme well and they’re good players. It’s no mystery to me that they’re ranked highly.”
When the Browns step onto the field Sunday, it will be the first game against the Steelers for four key players on offense, quarterback
Weeden will be the second rookie quarterback to match up against the Steelers this year. Robert Griffin III was the first and the Washington Redskins dropped a 27-12 decision at Heinz Field. Griffin completed 16 of 34 attempts for 177 yards with a touchdown and was sacked just once against the Steelers.
“They’re a fast defense,” Shurmur said. “We’ve had a chance to play against multiple teams that run a three-four. The way they pressure is a little bit different. There’s times with the Steelers where you get them blocked and they’re still on your edges. That’s the challenge. We have plenty of film on them and they’ll be able to see it, how our plays fit against their scheme. The way they bring pressure, I think, is a challenge.”
Veteran outside linebacker James Harrison will be one of the Steelers’ defenders charged with creating pressure against Weeden. Despite missing three games this season with an injury, Harrison has collected 32 total tackles, 21 solo stops, two sacks for 11 lost yards and eight quarterback pressures.
“He’s playing extremely well and he’s had an impact,” Shurmur said. “He’s had an impact against the Browns and of course, he’s been a good player for a long time.”
In the Browns’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, the team was penalized 12 times for 129 yards. Ten of the fouls were committed by the defense and two were on kickoff returns.
Six of the penalties came in the fourth quarter.
“Holding calls and pass interference calls, those types of things, that comes,” Shurmur said. “We didn’t have any on offense, which was good, which was really good in an environment where it’s hard to communicate against a pretty good front. We had the two holding calls on special teams where you’ve just got to be a little better with your hands. You work on that and you emphasize it. The defensive penalties, it really was a matter of corners challenging receivers. There’s a lot of contact in that five-yard area, and then, once you break through there, you’ve just got to run and cover. We’ve just got to work on it.”
Against the Cowboys, Browns running back Trent Richardson ran for 95 yards on 28 carries and caught a team-best six receptions for 49 yards. However, after the game, Richardson said he felt he left yards on the field.
“That’s a competitive guy expressing the fact that although he had a huge impact on the game, he wants to do more,” Shurmur said. “To me, that’s what I want from our players. Them to be able to say, ‘You know what, no matter what you say about how I played, I can play better.’ I think if we play and coach that way, then, we’ll get better.”The all new Browns Fan4Pack is on sale now! The all-inclusive game day package includes 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 Pepsi Products, 4 game programs and 1 parking pass for home games versus the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 9 or the Washington Redskins on Dec. 16. Click here to purchase today!