Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns enter Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season at 1-1 with both squads coming off losses in Week 2.
A pivotal divisional game that could ultimately have playoff implications and there's certainly no love lost on either side as the game is sure to be physical. Here are some things to watch for on Thursday Night Football.
Can the Steelers Continue to Slow Down Nick Chubb?
The former Georgia tailback has been the lead dog in the Browns running back stable for years now, establishing himself as one of the elite running backs in the league. While he's run rampant on pretty much everyone to date, the Steelers defense has done a respectable job of holding him in check over the course of his career. In seven career games against Pittsburgh, Chubb is averaging just 66 yards per game and has only found the end zone once.
Chubb has been the driving force being the Kevin Stefanski's offensive unit for years and that holds true today, as he's already leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns with three. Stopping the Cleveland ground game will be the top priority for Mike Tomlin's defense on Thursday night.
The three-time Pro Bowler is blessed with an outstanding offensive line in front of him and capable running backs behind him to keep him fresh throughout games. Chubb's unique blend of pure power and spectacular contact balance makes him a tough runner to gameplan for but slowing him down is of the utmost importance for the Steelers defense.
The Steelers Defense is Changing
Football is very cyclical in nature, the rise of two-high defenses is the new wave around the league. Tony Dungy is credited for being one of the innovators of the original "Tampa 2" defense back when Dungy had Monte Kiffin as his defensive coordinator back in Tampa Bay in the early 2000s.
Mike Tomlin, a former assistant under Dungy, has now gone back to his roots and implemented more of these looks so far in 2022 and it's paid massive dividends.
Minkah Fitzpatrick has already been a beneficiary of the switch, as he's collected interceptions off these looks in back-to-back weeks.
Not just Tampa 2, but in general, the Steelers are playing more two-high safety looks than they ever have during the Tomlin era. Through the first two weeks of the season, they're using two safety shell coverages 58% of the time, up from 36% a year ago according to Sports Info Solutions.
The Steelers have historically been a MOFC (middle field closed or single high) defense playing more cover 1 or cover 3 looks but there seems to be a changing of the guard happening right before our eyes. They've already collected four interceptions on the season in cover 2 looks, most in the NFL. Teams around the NFL are electing to shift their defensive plans to attempt to slow down these high-flying offensive attacks and force quarterbacks to methodically work their way down the field on longer drives rather than score quickly via explosive plays.
Trubisky, Steelers Offense Needs to Quiet the Noise
Sure, Tomlin does wear a headset on Sundays but I'm not buying his story explaining that he didn't hear the Kenny Pickett chants at Acrisure Stadium.
Fans can be impatient but it's hard to blame them as the Steelers offense has been painfully dreadful in the early goings of the season, scoring just two total touchdowns in nearly nine quarters.
The unit is currently 27th in points per drive and 30th in yards per drive which tells the story of not lighting up the scoreboard nor displaying the ability to stay on the field to give their defense a breather.
For Trubisky, his numbers are arguably even more pedestrian than Ben Roethlisberger's, as he's averaging just 5.1 yards per attempt. To his credit, he's taken full responsibility for his play, acknowledging that he needs to get his playmakers the football more.
One of those playmakers is second-round pick George Pickens, who's currently a member of the "all-cardio" team as he's run almost exclusively vertical routes while being targeted just six times, with two of those resulting in catches.
Trubisky needs to show some signs of life here against a Browns defense that got lit up last week by Joe Flacco. If he doesn't, those chants for Kenny Pickett will only grow stronger, perhaps even loud enough for the head coach to hear them.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: Unsung Hero of Cleveland's Defense
While Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are the two more prominently known Browns defenders, "JOK" is the guy that flashes every time that I pop on Browns tape.
This is nothing new as the Notre Dame prodigy played all over the field for the Irish in college and his versatile skill set has paid dividends already as he's transitioned to the NFL. Owusu-Koramoah's cat-like quickness and agility make it difficult for blockers to reach him at the second level in the run game.
He's also a steady force in coverage thanks to his supreme athleticism and top-tier movement skills for the position. In 2021, he spent over 300 snaps in coverage, only allowing 12 catches for 74 yards on the year, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Fellow draft class member Pat Freiermuth has become one of Trubisky's favorite targets thus far and it should be an interesting matchup any time these two are lined up across from one another.
Dan Moore Jr. vs. Myles Garrett Round Three
Last season, the Steelers then rookie left tackle did an admirable job against Garrett in both matchups, holding him to just one sack while allowing 12 pressures in both games combined.
For a fourth-round rookie thrust into the starting lineup, receiving little help, that was considered a win for the Steelers as he was able to stop Garrett from completely wrecking their game plan. Moore Jr. has been a pleasant surprise to open the season, as he's played much better in the regular season than he did throughout the preseason.
Still, with that in mind, there's no doubt that stopping Garrett is a major key to pulling off a victory in Week 3. The Browns' edge rusher led all defenders last season with 85 total pressures, five more than the next highest finisher.
Garrett's a physical freak with generational speed to power conversion and the ability to bend at near impossible angles off the edge. Cleveland does move him around the front so the Steelers' offensive line will need to be hyper-aware of #95's whereabouts at all times as he's shown capable of flipping the game script in the blink of an eye.
Make sure you bookmark All Steelers for the latest news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more!