How the Browns beat the Steelers, explained by experts

Here’s how the Cleveland Browns took a 29-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football.

Hmm… But we thought the Cleveland Browns were going to sputter and fall through their first 11 games of the season while they waited for Deshaun Watson to return? Guess we better think again.

The Browns shocked with a 29-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football this week, giving them a 2-1 record and temporary sole possession of the AFC North lead.

The game was historic for Kevin Stefanski, and though there was a bright spot of an incredible catch for the Steelers, it showed just how they might need to push things in the direction of Kenny Pickett, even if Mike Tomlin really doesn’t want to.

Here’s what the experts around the web are saying about how the Steelers pulled this off.

Things started off great for the Steelers offense…

The rest of the story doesn’t shed much positive light on the Steelers, so let’s start with some positivity there. The opening half gave some reason to be optimistic for Steelers fans. Here’s what Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had to say:

“A fast-starting offense? Lately, the Steelers will take any kind of offense, but by the end of the first half Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, they matched their touchdown total through the first two games.

Najee Harris’ 5-yard run and Mitch Trubisky’s 1-yard keeper gave the Steelers two touchdowns on offense in the first two quarters after scoring just one each in the first two weeks of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.

Not that the end of the Roethlisberger era itself was a bastion of early offense. The 14 first-half points were the most for the Steelers since Week 9 of the 2021 season when they scored just as many in a Monday night win against the Bears at Acrisure Stadium.”

It was pretty much downhill from there, though…

The defense was great for the Browns in the second half

Randy Gurzi of Dawg Pound Daily pointed out how crucial the Browns’ defense coming alive in the second half of the game was:

“While they allowed Mitch Trubisky to move the ball with some ease in the first half, Cleveland’s defense tightened up in the final 30 minutes. They had three consecutive three-and-outs that put them in a great position to put the game away — which they did this time.”

Another perspective shows a crucial failure for the Steelers’ offense

Tommy Jaggi of Still Curtain thinks that the Steelers had opportunities on the offensive side but simply failed to take advantage:

“With the exception of a strong second quarter, the rest of their offensive showing was quite pathetic. The offense simply stalled far too often and couldn’t put points on the board. This is now the third straight game to start the season in which they have managed 17 offensive points or fewer. They did this despite having a rushing attack that was able to go off for over 100 yards on the ground on 4.7 yards per carry.

Additionally, Trubisky was pretty well protected most of the game — taking just 1 sack for 3 yards. Once again, the blame continues to fall on a combination of Steelers QB play and OC Matt Canada, as this pairing is proving to be lethal to the success of this team. Trubisky did not attempt a single pass over the middle of the football field until desperation struck in the fourth quarter.”

Want to know where the offense failed? Brooke Pryor of ESPN pointed out that it was the lack of targets in the middle of the field.

“For all the offensive adjustments made — at least in the first half — the Steelers still didn’t target the middle of the field. Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth didn’t get targeted until midway through the fourth quarter. That pass sailed high, and Mitch Trubisky threw it into triple coverage. Freiermuth’s first catch came with 2:56 left in the fourth quarter, an impressive grab for a 26-yard gain. He followed it up with another on the next play over the middle for 15 yards. But trailing by two scores, it was too late for those completions to have much impact on the game.”

Nick Chubb was a difference-maker for the Browns

CBS Sports (Bryan DeAdro, Shanna McCarriston) lauded Nick Chubb’s contributions to the win:

Speaking of the run game, let’s talk about Chubb. Chubb absolutely demolished the Steelers defense, putting up 23 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. Since 2018, he has 24 100-yard games, the most in the league during that span.

The Steelers need T.J. Watt back, their pass rush is dead

Kevin Patra at pointed out how the pash rush is missing a ton of aggression:

“The Steelers have a 30.5 QB pressure percent with Watt compared to 19.0 without, according to Next Gen Stats. In six games sans Watt, Pittsburgh is averaging 1.7 sacks — 3.5 sacks per game with the edge rusher. Only once in those six games have the Steelers earned more than two sacks (Week 17, 2020, when Watt rested, four sacks versus Cleveland), and they’ve been shut out of the sack column twice.”

Jacoby Brissett is serving as a great QB stopgap

Jake Trotter of ESPN is making sure that we don’t neglect to appreciate Jacoby Brissett. Despite serving as a temporary starter until Watson is back, he’s done his job well for the Browns and is setting the tone early in this season.

“Brissett delivered another solid performance in his third start for the Browns. He tossed a pair of touchdowns in the first half, the first to Cooper on a slant, the other to tight end David Njoku at the back of the end zone. Brissett finished the game 21-of-31 passing for 220 yards as he continued to steady the Browns’ offense.”

Next game for Steelers, Browns

The Steelers take on the New York Jets in their next game. After the extended break, the Browns take on the Falcons. Both play Sunday, October 2 at 1:00 pm.

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