This Thursday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. To help preview a few topics from the Steelers’ perspective, we reached out to Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain and exchanged six questions with him. Enjoy!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 4.5-point favorites against the Steelers.
Chris: “The era of Ben Roethlisberger is over, and Mitch Trubisky has had the reins for the first two games. Are fans already itching for a change under center?”
Jeff: “The quick answer is yes, they are ready for a change. This isn’t all because of Trubisky, but because of who is sitting behind him. Kenny Pickett isn’t just the team’s first round pick, and the first quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, but played extremely well in the preseason. When you throw in Pickett’s play in the preseason, his draft status and Trubisky’s struggles, the fan base is ready to see what the rookie can do. I can’t say I blame them...”
Chris: “I never want to see any player out for an extended period of time, so it sucked to hear about T.J. Watt’s injury. At the same time, it’s nice that the Browns don’t have to contend with his rush this week. Did Pittsburgh’s defense have a notable dropoff without him in Week 2?”
Jeff: “I’m not sure if I’d call what happened in Week 2 a drop off, but the Patriots knew exactly how to defend the Steelers pass rush without Watt coming off the edge. In Week 1 the Steelers registered 7 sacks of Joe Burrow, but Watt only had one of those. The issue is more than just losing Watt, it’s how teams can now plan for the Steelers. Without having to worry about Watt wrecking the entire play, Cam Heyward can be double teamed, and you feel more confident about more conventional methods of keeping Alex Highsmith and/or Malik Reed away from the quarterback.”
Chris: “What is the strength and weakness of the Steelers’ offensive line?”
Jeff: “The Steelers have kept the training wheels on the offensive line throughout the first two weeks, but their strength has been in pass protection. Trubisky has been sacked, but the vast majority of those sacks have been on Trubisky not throwing the ball away. Not on the line. As for the weakness, it would be in run blocking. The Steelers’ line is very limited in what they are comfortable with, as it pertains to blocking schemes. They want to run more outside zone, but aren’t comfortable, or trust, this at this juncture in the season. Instead, they’ve been running primarily inside zone, and getting a push has been an issue.”
Chris: “Which player in the Steelers 2022 draft class has made the biggest contribution so far?”
Jeff: “There was a lot of hype around the Steelers’ rookie class, but as of now the biggest contributions have come from third round pick DeMarvin Leal. Leal has played the most of all rookies, and fans are waiting for second round pick George Pickens to finally be released. There have been glimpses, but nothing as of the regular season.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Jeff: “Within the AFC North fans know the opposition so well, this is difficult, but if I had to go with one player who could fly under the radar I’d go with Jaylen Warren. Warren is the backup running back, and an undrafted rookie free agent this year. He has shown a hard-nose running style and willingness to do the dirty work when called upon. With Najee Harris battling injury, and still knocking the rust off, Warren might be used more on Thursday night than a usual game day.”
Chris: “The Browns are early favorites to beat the Steelers on Thursday Night Football (Browns -4.5 as of this question). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Jeff: “The Steelers might be coming off a bad loss to the Patriots, but I don’t see them getting blown out in this game. In fact, I don’t see them losing by a touchdown. Therefore, I like the Steelers to keep it close enough to suggest fans should feel comfortable taking the Steelers getting the points. I’m not saying take them on the moneyline, but take them getting the 5-point spread.”
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.