These three keys will determine whether or not the Cleveland Browns will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. At the end, we’ll add the best sportsbooks to use if you believe the Browns can pull it off.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, January 10, 2021 – 08:15 PM EST at Heinz Field
The Cleveland Browns have made it to the NFL Playoffs for the first time in decades. Thanks to quality coaching, Baker Mayfield, and a strong offense, Cleveland clinched a wild card slot in the final week of the regular season.
They did so by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final minutes, and they will now have to beat them again. The Browns will face off against their AFC North rival in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.
The Steelers had a strong start to the season, but things stuttered towards the end. They are led by an aging quarterback and offensive line. Their running game is nothing like what you are used to seeing by the Steelers, and injuries on defense have been devastating. They have weaknesses that Cleveland can exploit, and the Browns will have to. They barely beat Pittsburgh despite the Steelers resting most of their veterans. So, what are the keys for Cleveland making it to the next round?
Take Away the First Option for Big Ben
Big Ben has the quickest release in the NFL this year, and it is not because he is a naturally quick passer. Without a solid running game to distract the defense, Roethlisberger is forced to withstand the pass rush on almost every play. With Pittsburgh’s aging offensive line, he doesn’t usually have a chance to stay in the pocket for long. Because of this, their offense has gone more towards short routes that let the receivers run after the catch.
Cleveland’s secondary is hurt, but they still have to stay in press coverage on the outside. They should force Big Ben to go through his reads. While he is doing that, Myles Garrett will be working to disrupt the pocket and force a bad decision.
This is a risk. If the offensive line can somehow hold up, Roethlisberger will have a deep shot available to him. Between JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, this receiving corps can torch the Browns over the course of the game. However, Cleveland has to believe that the defensive front will get pressure. If not, they’ll be letting the Steelers dictate how this game goes.
Stick to the Script Offensively
Baker Mayfield has been a successful quarterback as this season has progressed. While he thrived in chaos at Oklahoma, he prefers structure in the NFL. He has seen plenty of offensive systems, and the Browns have finally found the recipe for success.
Cleveland has the best running back duo in the country. They have addressed their issues with the offensive line in both free agency and the NFL Draft. The trenches should be a strength for them. Because of this, they have been able to run the ball effectively. That gives Baker Mayfield better options when they use the play-action pass.
While this has worked so far, the Steelers have a great defensive front. Even with the injuries, they remain solid. This will be what determines this game. If Cleveland has to flip the script and go back to being a pass-heavy offense, they will lose. If they can somehow run the ball consistently and let Baker make the easy plays, they will at least be in this game for the long haul.
Losing Stefanski Can’t Matter
The Cleveland Browns lost their head coach and play-caller due to COVID-19. While he can help develop the game plan, he won’t be there for the game itself. This can be devastating, but we’re not quite sure how this will go yet.
Will it be harder to call plays without Stefanski? Will the new guy in charge fail to handle in-game situations and decisions? Will clock management suffer? The answer to these must be no.
If losing Stefanski impacts how Cleveland plays, then they will lose. They are already facing an uphill climb. This needs to be business as usual for the Browns. If not, their magical season will end in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.
If you believe that the Browns can get it done, BetOnline has the best moneyline NFL odds for the Browns at +220.