The 4-0 Pittsburgh Steelers return home to Heinz Field for the 4th consecutive contest as they will play host to the 4-1 Cleveland Browns this Sunday. This matchup serves as the most important game of the year to date for both sides, and the winner will leave the field for at least a share of 1st place in the AFC North. In what may be the most contested division in the league this year, divisional wins will be coming at a premium. This makes the Week 6 battle all the more important. When Steelers DE Cameron Heyward was asked on “Good Morning Football” what it meant to be 4-0, he responded, “4-0 gives you a chance to go 5-0, but I'm more concerned with us going 1-0 in our division." Heyward, as well as his teammates, understand the importance of stacking wins, and they will be put to the test by a newly competitive division rival. While every matchup will be key in determining the winner on Sunday afternoon, look for these 3 to most likely dictate the outcome.
Cleveland Rush Offense vs. Pittsburgh Rush Defense
The Browns' rushing attack has been impressive through 5 weeks of play. In fact, they have the most rush yards per game in the league at 188.4. Their depth chart did get a little bit thinner after the loss of RB Nick Chubb, however, RB Kareem Hunt is more than capable of assuming lead-back duties for HC Kevin Stefanski. Hunt has rushed for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns through 5 games thus far, but he and his offensive line will be coming across the league’s 2nd ranked rush defense this Sunday. Pittsburgh has completely neutralized every running back they have come across this year, and they will look to continue this trend against Cleveland. A week ago, Pittsburgh did surrender 83 rush yards to Philadelphia running backs. However, if you omit a 74-yard touchdown by RB Miles Sanders, the Steelers only allowed Sanders to gain 6 yards on 10 carries. This matchup is crucial as the Browns have mainly found their success from their ground game, and if it is taken away from them the Steelers will force QB Baker Mayfield to beat them through the air. Mayfield has put up respectable stats through the first 5 weeks of the season, but he has yet to face a pass rush of Pittsburgh’s quality. Cleveland will do everything in their power to pound the rock effectively in order to keep responsibility at a minimum for the mistake-prone Mayfield.
Myles Garrett vs. Pittsburgh Offensive Line
We are still less than a year removed from the infamous Thursday Night brawl that took place between the Browns and the Steelers. Just as well, this is the first time that DE Myles Garrett will be able to match up with Pittsburgh since he got into it with QB Mason Rudolph, as Garrett was suspended for last year’s week 13 tilt. Focusing strictly on the matchup in between the lines, Garrett has been a game-wrecker for Cleveland this year. In his first 5 games, Garrett has accumulated 6 sacks and forced 3 fumbles. He continues to antagonize every offensive line he squares up against, and he will be more than ready for his revenge game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the flip side, it will be up to RT Chuks Okorafor to slow down the dominant DE. The Steelers have done a good job of protecting QB Ben Roethlisberger this year, but Garrett is the best pass rusher they have seen so far this year. Look for OC Randy Fichtner to call a lot of screens and slants in order to minimize Garrett’s effectiveness. However, if the Steelers find themselves in too many 3rd and long situations, it is only a matter of time before Myles Garrett will make a splash play.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland Secondary
Aside from star CB Denzel Ward, the Cleveland Browns are shorthanded in the backend of their defense. Safeties Ronnie Harrison and Karl Joseph have both been ruled “OUT” for Sunday’s game. We can expect to see veteran Andrew Sendejo and 2nd-year defensive back Sheldrick Redwine to play the majority of the snaps for Cleveland, and that may spell trouble for their defense. They will be given the responsibility to hold QB Ben Roethlisberger and his young wide receivers in check, which will not be accomplished easily. Roethlisberger has thrown 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception through 4 games this year, and his wideouts have all been involved in the offense. This past week, it was rookie Chase Claypool that did the heavy lifting as he caught 3 touchdowns and rushed for another. The Steelers offense is looking as potent as it was in 2018, and they are primed to continue their success against a weakened secondary. No matter how much pressure DE Myles Garrett can put on the Steelers, it will be up to the Browns defensive backs to ensure that Pittsburgh does not run up the score on them.
As we know, each individual matchup that takes place on the football field is important in determining who will come out victorious, but look for the 3 listed above to carry the most weight. Both teams are heading into Sunday with 1st place aspirations, and it should be fascinating to watch how these matchups unfold.