Second place in AFC North up for grabs as Browns host Steelers

Dorian Thompson-Robinson #17 of the Cleveland Browns runs onto the field prior to a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson #17 of the Cleveland Browns runs onto the field prior to a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo credit Jason Miller/Getty Images

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Baltimore’s win over Cincinnati Thursday night kept the Ravens atop the AFC North meaning Sunday’s showdown between the Steelers and Browns is for second place.

Both teams come in 6-3 as the Browns look to split the season series for the fourth time in the last five years.

Here’s what, and who we are watching for against the Steelers.

Sack masters Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt are on the short list for Defensive Player of the Year consideration and both players continue to make history for their respective teams. Watt has already won the award while Garrett seeks his first. Garrett had another 1.5 sacks last week giving him 11 and tying him for the league lead. He is the only player with double digit sacks in each of the last six seasons and his 85.5 career sacks in 93 games are the fourth-most by a player in his first 100 games since 1982 when the league began tracking sacks. Watt looks for his fourth in a row with at least a half sack and third straight with a full sack. He had a pair of tackles-for-loss, a strip-sack that got returned for a touchdown and pass breakup in Week 2. Watt ranks third in the NFL with 10.5 sacks in 2023, his fifth-career season with 10-plus sacks and his 88 sacks in 96 career games are the second-most by a player in his first 100 games since 1982.

With Deshaun Watson lost for the season, it’s up to rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The good news is that Thompson-Robinson actually had time to prepare for the Steelers unlike his disastrous debut in Week 4 against the Ravens in which he found out 2.5 hours before kickoff he would play. The Browns seemingly opted for the fifth-round pick over P.J. Walker because Walker had five interceptions in 11 quarters. Thompson-Robinson threw three of those in his debut, a 28-3 loss to the Ravens. Taking care of the football combined with beating the Steelers rush by getting the ball out quickly are of paramount importance.

Browns running backs Kareem Hunt and Jerome Ford will have to carry the load on the ground. Hunt leads the team with six rushing touchdowns and he has gotten to the end zone in five straight games, the longest active streak in the league. Ford ran for a career-high 107 yards last week and he ran for 106 in Week 2 when Nick Chubb was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury.

Tight end David Njoku has 50-plus receiving yards in three of the last four games and is looking for a TD catch for the third time in four weeks. He’s caught a score against the Steelers in three of his past four against Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have been outgained in every game this year, yet they are 6-3. They are also a perfect 6-0 in one-score games while the Browns are 3-2 in them this season.

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett hasn’t thrown an interception in his last five games and he’s registered a 95.0+ rating in two of three road starts this season. Pickett is completing 61.3% of his passes for 1,616 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Steelers running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren carry the offense. Harris looks to run for at least 75 yards and a touchdown in his third consecutive game while Warren is coming off a career-best 101 yards and a TD performance last week. The duo are the only backfield pair with at least 575 scrimmage yards apiece this season.

Last week – Steelers beat the Packers 23-19; Browns beat the Ravens 33-31

The last time – September 18: Steelers 26, Browns 22

Series – Steelers lead 79-61-1

By the numbers – A look at how the two teams match up statistically.

Steelers offense vs. Browns defense:

Scoring: Steelers 17.3, Browns 18.9

Total yards: Steelers 283.6, Browns 242.7

Passing: Steelers 180.3, Browns 151.1

Rushing: Steelers 103.2, Browns 91.6

Steelers defense vs. Browns offense:

Scoring: Steelers 20.2, Browns 23.8

Total yards: Steelers ,379.7 Browns 333.2

Passing: Steelers 248.4, Browns 185.3

Rushing: Steelers 131.2, Browns 147.9

Defensive stats

Sacks: Steelers 27, Browns 30

Takeaways: Steelers 18, Browns 15

Turnover differential: Steelers +10, Browns -4

Projected Browns starters – Offense: WR Amari Cooper, LT Geron Christian, LG Joel Bitonio, C Ethan Pocic, RG Wyatt Teller, RT Dawand Jones, TE David Njoku, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, QB Donovan Peoples-Jones; TE Harrison Bryant, RB Kareem Hunt

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Jordan Elliott, DE Za’Darius Smith, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Anthony Walker, CB Denzel Ward, CB Martin Emerson Jr., SS Grant Delpit, FS Juan Thornhill, CB Mike Ford Jr.

Injury report – OUT: WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion), S Juan Thornhill (calf); QUESTIONABLE: RT Dawand Jones (knee), OG Michael Dunn (calf); EXPECTED TO PLAY: S Grant Delpit (rest/shoulder), WR David Bell (knee), DE Ogbo Okoronkwo (groin), CB Denzel Ward (neck), TE David Njoku (rest/knee), WR Greg Newsome II (groin), RG Wyatt Teller (ankle), RB Pierre Strong (knee), DE Alex Wright (knee)

Uniforms – Orange helmet with white facemask, brown jersey, orange pants

Broadcast info – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX; TV: WOIO TV-19 (CBS)

Kickoff – 1:03 p.m. Cleveland Browns Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio

Prediction – Browns 16, Steelers 15

Our prediction record – 5-4

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images