The Winning Mix

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The Winning Mix: 3 keys to a victory over the Steelers 

Browns looking to end the season on a high note with a season sweep of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers

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This has the chance to be a historic Sunday for the Cleveland Browns despite the fact that the 2022 playoffs are not attainable. In addition to denying the Steelers the chance to make the playoffs, the Browns can also sweep their division rival for the first time since 1988. They can also hand Mike Tomlin the first losing season of his NFL coaching career (15 straight non-losing seasons) and snap the 18 consecutive non-losing seasons by the Steelers organization.

Let's take a look at how to get the W in Pittsburgh.

1. Win the Turnover Battle

The Browns are 5-0 in 2022 when winning the turnover battle and they are just 2-9 when they have not. In Washington, the Browns intercepted Carson Wentz three times and had a clean sheet on offense as they cruised to a double-digit win 24-10. The Steelers have played in seven consecutive one-score games, so you know this one will come down to the wire. Being the team that snags the extra possession or stops the other team with a backbreaking turnover will play a huge role in the Browns getting their fourth win in the last five contests against the Steelers.

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers

2. The Right Third Down Situations On Both Sides of the Ball

When the Browns have the ball, Kevin Stefanski will tell you that the key against the Steelers is to get to manageable third downs against this Steelers defense.

In the first game, the Browns did just that and were able to run, sneak and even hit play action shot plays on third downs to propel this offense to a 100-plus rating for QB Jacoby Brissett, 113 yards rushing for Nick Chubb, 190 yards and two touchdowns for Amari Cooper and David Njoku en route to a 29-17 win. With T.J. Watt back, that is even more important because you don't want to let the Steelers defense succeed in third and long and get after the QB with the trio of Watt, Alex Highsmith (12 sacks) and Cam Heyward (8.5 sacks).

The Steelers have 25 sacks and 16 takeaways in nine games with Watt this year (they're 7-2 in those games) and had just eight sacks and five takeaways in seven games without him (1-6). The Steelers also have the league-leader in forced fumbles (Highsmith with five) and interceptions (Minkah Fitzpatrick with six). Avoiding those obvious passing situations in third and long will allow the Browns to operate efficiently on offense, put points on the board and stay away from game-changing sacks and turnovers.

Conversely, when the Steelers have the ball, the formula is the same as last week. Hold up to the run on early downs, where the Steelers really rely on Najee Harris, and get rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett into third and long drop-back passing situations. The Browns were able to do that against the Commanders and forced Carson Wentz into three interceptions and they notched three sacks. Pickett averages a league low 6.1 yards per attempt and doesn't have the arm strength to drive the ball down the field into tight windows on third and long with any consistency. That will also give Myles Garrett time to get home, and Garrett is just 1.5 sacks away from breaking his own Browns single-season sack record of 16.

3. Keep it rolling, Deshaun

Last week against an excellent Washington Commanders defense, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson got it rolling and showed exactly how elite he can be. In the second half, Watson went 6-of-10 passing for 146 yards and three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 148.3. He also added a 20-plus yard run on a designed quarterback run that really showcased his true dual-threat nature at the position. It's a tough task once again this week against a Steelers team that since Week 10 has allowed an opposing passer rating of 78.2, second-lowest in the NFL.

Watson has faced the Steelers once in his career — back in 2020 with the Houston Texans. In that game, he completed 70 percent of his passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 110.7. Finishing the year strong for Watson and his pass catchers, Amari Cooper (81 yards away from a new career-high), Donovan Peoples-Jones (one touchdown away from a new career-high) and David Njoku (three receptions and 54 yards away from new career-highs) will go a long way to defeating the Steelers and heading into this offseason with tons of momentum.

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