Keys to Victory

Keys to Victory: What we’re watching against the Steelers

*1. Score early *

The Browns haven’t scored a first-quarter touchdown all season, which is a major issue even if you ignore the fact they’ve lost three games by three points. They didn’t score until the third quarter Week 1 against Pittsburgh, and they finished that game tied. So it’s no surprise the coaching staff is emphasizing a fast start this week. 

“We have not started fast enough,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “We have not had a very good start, and we are firing on all cylinders in the second half. My whole thing there is if we can put it together – first half and second half – then maybe we will have a better chance of finishing some of these games and winning."

*2. Fewer penalties *

The Browns average more penalties per game than every team in the league except one -- Pittsburgh -- and rivalries tend to produce heated moments. So the team that best controls its emotions should have an advantage. Coaches and players cited penalties as a reason for the Browns’ slow offensive starts, and the defense committed four penalties that negated third-down stands last week, making penalties a multi-faceted factor in this week’s matchup.

“(We) have to eliminate the minus plays,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “We had two penalties (early in last week’s game) – one penalty on the first drive, one on the second drive and then the third drive had a negative run. If we do our job, we will eliminate those things, we will be in a much better position to take points and any points are good points.”

3. Don’t get worn down

Pittsburgh is well rested and well prepared coming off its bye week. The Browns don’t have one until Week 11. They’ve had six days to prepare compared to Pittsburgh’s 13. Rest disadvantage is a common obstacle in the NFL, but it plays a factor in game-planning. 

“That’s been a part of what we talk about from an analysis point of view,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “They’ll be energized. And we’ve talked about it — we have to match and pass that energy.” 

4. Turnover differential

Both Browns victories (and the tie) coincided with a positive turnover margin. The top 10 teams in turnover differential (including the Browns, which lead the league) sport a combined record of 42-24. And while most stats don’t cover all contexts, offensive coordinator Todd Haley believes turnover margin carries significant importance. 

“There is no bigger stat,” Haley said. “That is through years and years – 20-30 years of statistics that if you can end up in the plus territory, especially on the road, it has a direct correlation to winning.”

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