Five Keys to Victory for the Browns – @ Pittsburgh
Winning at Heinz Field has been no easy task for these Cleveland Browns, as it is going on eleven years since Tim Couch led the upset on Sunday Night Football. However, victory is not impossible for the away squad. They will need many things to go their way, including five huge keys…
#1 – Have Brian Hoyer Be the Leader
By now, all Browns’ fans know the starting quarterback is from northeast Ohio and has been raised to hate the Steelers. It is now time for him to take charge (especially in the huddle) and provide this team with leadership it has not seen for quite some time. Not all plays will be executed to perfection, as well as each guy being on the same page before all snaps. But this is what being “the guy” is all about – I feel Hoyer can do it, now it comes down to having success while in charge.
#2 – Don’t Fall Behind Early
A franchise like the Browns, who’s not accustomed to game winning drives and comeback victories are wise to try to get a lead in the beginning of this contest. It will provide the squad with confidence, in addition to quieting the home crowd. This is not to say the visitors cannot come back should the Steelers gain an edge early in the matchup, but I don’t feel great about finding that out.
#3 – Get in Manageable Situations
It may be boring, but I am anticipating run, run, pass series by the Browns’ offense. Assuming Ben Tate and Terrance West can shoulder the load on first and second downs, the team will be in advantageous spots to convert their short, third downs. They will likely throw in a “high percentage” pass in early downs – i.e. quick sideline or out routes, but the Browns want to avoid third down and ten (or longer). Those areas can put the team in a world of hurt – literally.
#4 – Put the Heat on Big Ben
The opposing quarterback, when given time in the pocket, is one of the best in the NFL. Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil must excel at providing pressure from all angles and from multiple athletes. Surely this will be the case and Hoyer and company are on the field. Who knows if this will be effective but that is the proven blueprint to beat the Steelers. Getting takedowns and creating difficult situations are just a few ways the Browns can level the playing field.
#5 – Resist Making the Risky Decision
The home team has feasted on the Browns making less than ideal choices in contests. Forcing passes into double coverage, staring down receivers, and not securing the football by backs are a few ways the Browns’ have lost possessions (and sometimes games) to their rival to the east. Hoyer is a smart signal caller who knows to “take what the defense gives him”. This is not to say he should limit throws to all dump offs and screens, but he cannot allow the opposing defense to change the complexion of the contest on a single, huge turnover.
Conclusion: While I do not believe the Browns will get off to a 1 – 0 start this season, there is still a minute possibility that this could occur. They have to play smart, mistake-free football and not beat themselves. I’ll continue to be optimistic in this squad until they prove to be inept, and I don’t want that to happen any time soon.