The Browns will travel to Pittsburgh and play under the lights on Monday Night Football at Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 18. The Browns are 1-0 to start the regular season as they face another division rival in Week 2.
With the history between the Browns and the Steelers, Monday's matchup is set to be an important game.
So, let's look at three of the biggest keys for the Browns to find success against the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
Combat the duo of LB T.J. Watt and OLB Alex Highsmith
It's a tall task. Throughout the week of practice leading up to Monday's game, LB T.J. Watt and OLB Alex Highsmith were key talking points for both players and coaches. And rightfully so. Watt has 15 career sacks against the Browns and opened Week 1 of this season with three sacks against the 49ers.
OC Alex Van Pelt noted on Friday how dynamic of a duo they are and the challenges they present to the Browns offense.
"It's definitely a number one priority for us, is to make sure we take care of the edge," Van Pelt said. "As you know, you can talk about T.J. all you want, but Highsmith on the other side is a Pro-Bowler also and is an extremely good pass rusher. So not just one side. We have to be on point on, it's really both sides."
While RT Dawand Jones will draw the start and match up against Watt, it's more than just one-on-one matchups.
"It's always a challenge when you're playing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense," TE coach TC McCartney said on Saturday. "They're always good, and these edge players kind of make that whole defense go. So, we're definitely aware of where they're going to be, we're aware of what we have to do in the run game, in the past game, pass protection game, what we're going to do to try and be successful."
As a fellow defensive player, DE Myles Garrett noted the challenges that the duo of Watt and Highsmith present.
"Both of them can rush very well. Both of them play the run very well," Garrett said on Saturday. "So, it's just a matter of never letting off a single play because that one could be game-changing with that group. So, you got to be on P's and Q's all throughout and make sure you know your assignment."
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for Monday Night Football against the Steelers in Pittsburgh
Find explosive offensive plays and showcase more of the overall passing game
The weather during Week 1 against the Bengals affected the passing game for both teams. So, the Browns displayed more of their run game. In Week 2, they can try to balance both their passing and run game.
Yet, it won't come without its challenges. The Browns face a Steelers defense who can attack in the pass game.
To build the versatility of their offense, the Browns also must find explosive plays to stretch the field. Head coach Kevin Stefanski said they have to know that those explosive opportunities can be there in some games, and not in others. But it has to be a tool of their offense.
They have options not only with their wide receivers for those deep balls, but they can also continue to use RB Nick Chubb in the passing game. During Week 1 against the Bengals, Chubb caught four receptions for 21 yards. Van Pelt said that it can evolve week to week in how they use Chubb in the passing game.
"Just trying to find good matchups, trying to find plays where we know give the defense a different look, do different things," Van Pelt said on Friday. "Put Nick out wide and throw him the ball. So, it's multiple and versatile. That's part of our identity as an offense and we'll continue to grow that."
Limit QB Kenny Pickett and the Steelers passing game
The Steelers struggled in Week 1 against the 49ers, losing 30-7. QB Kenny Pickett threw 31-for-46 and 232 yards and was sacked a total of five times. Pickett also threw two interceptions.
"Yeah, that was a unique start to that game," HC Kevin Stefanski said of Pickett's performance in Week 1. "It really got away from them early, so I think they – only rushing the ball ten times, we don't expect that from them. So, he's a very good player. We've played him. We know what he's capable of. Athletic, can make every throw, fits their scheme really well."
If the Browns can apply similar pressure to Pickett like they did to Burrow and defend against their wide receivers and tight ends, then it could apply a needed pressure to disrupt their offense and the passing game.
Pickett has a number of targets though in the passing game. While the Steelers will be without WR Diontae Johnson, WR George Pickens has made some big plays for the Steelers. He finished Week 1 with five receptions for 36 yards. The Browns defensive backs have to cover well.
"He's a guy that people talk about 50-50 balls, but I don't know they're necessarily 50 balls with him," DC Jim Schwartz said of WR George Pickens. "He wins probably 70-30 of them and that's going to be a big challenge for our guys. I think our guys showed the confidence that they can play on the outside part of the field against some pretty tough characters."