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Assessing how the Browns offense could look against the Steelers defense


On Monday Night Football in Week 2, the Browns fumbled away their game against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. With 7:06 left in the game, QB Deshaun Watson was strip-sacked, and the Steelers recovered the ball for a touchdown to take a 26-22 lead. It was the last points scored for the game.

It's now Week 11, and the Browns offense will have a different quarterback running the show. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get his second start replacing Watson, who is out for the remainder of the season. Thompson-Robinson is excited for a second chance.

"It's a special one. It came at the right time," Thompson-Robinson said. "Obviously, our hopes and prayers are with Deshaun (Watson), but this team needs to win, and they need to win right now. And that's what I'm trying to work to come in here and do."

Thompson-Robinson and the Browns offense will face a Steelers defense that forced two turnovers and held them to 22 points in Week 2. The Steelers are tied for first in the NFL this season with 18 takeaways. They are also tenth in points allowed, with 20.2 per game.

The Steelers defense also possesses some talented players across the board. The defensive line boasts Cam Heyward, a dominant force in run defense and the pass rush. Heyward has only played three games due to a groin injury this season but is steadily working his way back into football shape.

Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers

At linebacker, they have the best edge tandem in the league. LB TJ Watt has 10.5 sacks this season and has forced two fumbles. His only touchdown this season came against the Browns in Week 2. LB Alex Highsmith has 4.5 sacks this season, an interception and a touchdown. 

"The Steelers defense is very good and finds ways to cause problems for any defense," G Michael Dunn said. "Watt and Highsmith are very talented, fast and play well together. Now they are adding Heyward to the mix, who we didn't get a chance to play against last time. It won't be easy, but we are prepared."

The Browns offense can take advantage of the Steelers bend-but-don't-break defense. The Steelers rank 28th in the NFL for total yards allowed at 379.2 and 27th for passing yards allowed at 248.4. In Week 2, the Browns offense passed for 235 yards and rushed for 198 yards.

If the Browns offense can replicate the production they had in Week 2 – even with a new quarterback at the helm of the offense – they have a chance to win the game. They have the players to do so. RB Jerome Ford rushed for 106 yards in the first meeting against the Steelers. WR Amari Cooper caught seven passes for 90 yards. TE David Njoku caught four passes for 48 yards, and WR Elijah Moore had three catches for 36 yards.

The Browns main offensive targets are healthy and have been consistently available for the Browns this season. The big question is how Thompson-Robinson will play and whether he will be more patient and precise than in his previous game against the Ravens in Week 4.

"No excuses, but he'll have the whole week to prep," OC Alex Van Pelt said. "That's the biggest thing. I thought he did a great job Tuesday night into Wednesday of digesting the plan. He was great in the huddle yesterday as far as play calls and spitting them right out. [We gave him] some tough calls that he had already memorized. So just a week of preparation, knowing that you're going to be the starter on Sunday, is only going to help him."