Marshall's Keys: Browns vs. Steelers
This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns (4-1) and Pittsbugh Steelers (4-0) square off in a tilt that will not only be a measuring stick for both teams early in the season, but could have implications on the AFC North standings come late December.
On Friday, Brandon Marshall, co-host of First Things First, laid out the Steelers' path to knocking off the upset-minded Browns:
1. Take Myles Garrett out of the game
Brandon's Take: "Eliminate him from this game plan, not because of his soap opera last year ... but it's because this guy is disruptive. He can singlehandedly win this game himself. He is a monster. Take him out. Protect Big Ben."
This might be easier said than done for the Pittsburgh offensive line, considering Garrett is arguably the best pass-rusher in football so far this season.
And if you dig a little deeper, he isn't just one of the best pass rushers in the NFL currently – he is statistically one of the best the NFL has ever seen.
Garrett already has six sacks in five games this season, as well as three forced fumbles.
2. Big Ben has to hit the deep ball
Brandon's Take: "The only thing this offense is missing is Big Ben connecting on the deep ball ... He's 4-for-17 when throwing the ball past 20 yards. That is 24 percent. This is the week to get it done because this is an average secondary at best. So Big Ben, let's go – get it done this week."
The Steelers rank 10th in points per game (29.5) but have been below average when it comes to passing, ranking 19th in passing yards per game (239.5).
However, last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Roethlisberger started to find some luck down the field with rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool.
If there was a secondary for the Steelers to finally put it all together against, it would be Cleveland's, which allows 296.4 passing yards per game, third-most in the NFL.
3. Eliminate the Browns run game
Brandon's Take: "They have to take out this running game. You can't let the Cleveland Browns come in here and do what they do best. You've got [T.J.] Watt and these other guys on the defensive line and it's stout, so if you eliminate this run game, now you're making Baker Mayfield be one dimemsional. And we know what happens when he drops back 40, 45 times. One pick, two pick, three pick, four."
If there's one thing the Browns do better than any team in the NFL as of today, it's run the football
The Browns currently rank first in the league in rushing with 188.4 yards per game.
The Browns are without Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, who suffered an MCL injury against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, meaning a majority of the rushing attack will fall on the shoulders of Kareem Hunt.
Hunt, a former Pro Bowler himself, has already racked up 347 rushing yards this season with three rushing touchdowns and is now the starting running back for the Browns while Chubb nurses his injury.