Kareem Hunt and the Browns offensive line had no option other than to tip their caps to the Steelers defense last Sunday at Heinz Field.
Cleveland was held to a season-low 75 rushing yards against Pittsburgh, which entered the game with the top defense — both by rushing yards allowed and by total points — in the NFL. The Browns were well-equipped to give the Steelers one of their toughest rushing matchups of the season, but Pittsburgh performed well in limiting big gains from Hunt and closing any rushing lanes inside or outside the tackles.
"I saw a team that came ready to play," Hunt said Wednesday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "There's some things we definitely need to work on to fill those holes. We moved on. We're ready to play the next game."
The Browns' rushing attack has been the core of the team's offensive surges in each of their four wins. The Steelers might've found a way to stop them Sunday, but the rushing crew is confident they can pick things back up in Week 7, and there's plenty of reasons to believe them.
The last time Cleveland was held to a low rushing total in a loss was in Week 1, when it still managed to record 138 yards despite utilizing a pass-heavy attack in the second half to attempt a comeback against the Ravens. In Week 2, the Browns running backs went wild and rolled through the Cincinnati Bengals for 215 rushing yards, which kickstarted a four-game win streak and one of the most dominant stretches the Browns have had in their run game since the Jim Brown era.
Check out the best photos from the Cleveland Browns game against the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday by the Browns photo team
A similar game of big runs could be in store for Week 7. The Browns have their rematch against a Bengals defense that ranks 28th against the run, and even though RB Nick Chubb will likely miss his third consecutive game with a knee injury, the Browns are still capable of building a big game from the backfield with Hunt and RBs D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard.
"I'm very confident," Hunt said. "We're going to get back to work and just keep getting better."
The Browns' offensive line also believes it can return to its dominance against the Bengals and help re-invigorate the run game.
Before Week 6, Cleveland had a strong argument for owning the best offensive line in the league. All five starters, which included RG Chris Hubbard after Wyatt Teller suffered a calf injury in Week 5, were nearly perfect in their play-to-play assignments. The Steelers, however, disrupted their string of good games by making four sacks and stopping the run.
No singular player was at fault for the rough performance of the group — a message both G Joel Bitonio and C JC Tretter echoed in recent interviews — and the unit vowed to keep their struggles confined to one game.
They know how much they're valued in keeping the run game afloat, and that's why they're eager to establish themselves again as a top unit Sunday in Cincinnati.
"We didn't play well enough against Pittsburgh," Tretter said, "but it's a long season, and nothing has changed from where we were two weeks ago. Everything is still in front of us."
No one is doubting the strength of the Browns' rushing attack despite the low outputs from Sunday. Cleveland still plans to ride with the run to maximize its time with the ball and fatigue the opposing defense, and even though those plans didn't quite work as planned in the last game, the Browns aren't changing anything about how much they value establishing the run.
Hunt is ready to handle whatever workload he's given. If it's anything similar to how the Browns previously responded after a loss, his plate will be full.
"We're still in a great spot," he said. "We never like losing, so just have to come out, get better and play the next game. We're ready to get back on track."