1) STOP THE RUN – If you can halt the Steelers ground attack and force them to be one dimensional, their offensive line does not pass block well and you can get to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for sacks and potential turnovers. However, that pressure must come from the outside, forcing “Big Ben” to stay in the pocket so he can’t get to the edges, extending the play to throw downfield for long gains and scores. But all this starts by keeping Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount bottled up. This is easier said than done, especially since the Browns rank 30th out of 32 teams against the run this season, giving up 152.5 yards per game and the Steelers are 7th in the league in rushing at 137.2 yards per game.
2) DOUBLE TEAM ANTONIO BROWN – Give Joe Haden help in covering Brown. Bring a safety over and take your chances with one-on-one coverage elsewhere. In other words, make a receiver not named Antonio Brown beat you. No one has emerged to become that true, viable, second receiver threat yet for Pittsburgh. In fact, Brown is the only Steelers WR to reach the end zone this season.
3) BALANCE ON OFFENSE – Against Tennessee the Browns ran the ball 36 times and threw it 37 times. A similar game plan this week would be beneficial against a Steelers defense that is at best, AVERAGE. At times Pittsburgh has had trouble stopping the run and with the Browns strength being their offensive line and three capable running backs led by Ben Tate, using the run to set up the pass with play action, could result in chunks of yards on the ground, and then big scoring plays through the air against a very poor Steelers secondary. But when that big play is there, they must hit on it, score touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals because of missed opportunities.
4) SPECIAL TEAMS NEED TO BE SPECIAL – The Browns must contain Antonio Brown on punt returns. No more long returns and karate kicks to the face of Spencer Lanning. The Browns must win the field position battle and make sure that whoever is returning punts and kicks doesn’t turn the ball over. The Browns were very lucky last week that a penalty against the Titans nullified a fumbled punt return by Travis Benjamin. Also snaps, extra points and field goals all must be handled flawlessly by snapper, holder and kicker, so no kicks are missed and points are left on the field.
5) MAKE THE STEELERS LINEBACKERS COVER – In Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme, he expects to get sacks or pressure on the quarterback from his linebackers. In the past that was no problem because Pittsburgh had Pro Bowl caliber linebackers. These Steelers linebackers are not that good. They’re having trouble getting to the quarterback and they have trouble covering tight ends and running backs on wheel routes out of the backfield. So make them cover and keep them off of Brian Hoyer, and the “Blitzburgh” defense is very susceptible to the big play and yielding points.
6) START AND FINISH STRONG – The Browns can ill afford to spot Pittsburgh a huge lead again because this time Pittsburgh may not take their foot off the gas like they did last time. Getting an early lead would be great for the team’s confidence and might put doubt in the minds of some of the young Steelers players, but at a minimum, keep the game even or close going into the fourth quarter and see if Brian Hoyer can work some more late game magic and help the “Kardiac Kids 2.0” come away with an important home, divisional win against their arch rivals.