The struggles in season openers for the Cleveland Browns has been well documented. And this season, while the Browns don’t open at home, the threat to lose another opener is real. The game is at Pittsburgh. Of course it is.
Can the Browns win this game? They can. The NFL surprises each and every week. Will they? Probably not.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but it is hard to be confident entering this game after the Browns’ circus that was the offseason and preseason. The Browns have had some crazy offseasons and preseasons and this was among the craziest. As far as what is consistent, the Browns enter the opener with a new coach and new starting quarterback.
All this adds up to pessimistic feelings surrounding Sunday’s opener.
The Browns can turn it around and give their fans some hope. That is, if these three things happen Sunday.
1. Sack Ben Roethlisberger. A lot.
This is a known weakness of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They simply can’t protect Ben Roethlisberger. Now, as was the case in many of the previews Browns-Steelers games, the inability to bring down Roethlisberger has led to big plays and big losses. We’ve heard about Mike Pettine’s defense and their ability to confuse and sack quarterbacks. Now it’s time to see it in action.
2. Don’t make dumb plays, Brian Hoyer
Avoid turnovers. In five career starts Hoyer has six touchdown passes and five interceptions. He simply can’t turn the ball over Sunday in Pittsburgh. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will try and confuse him and put his players in position to confuse Hoyer. Smart, safe throws are needed from Hoyer to keep the Browns offense moving in the right direction and a big key brings us to…
3. Run the football. Well.
The time is now for Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to shine. If the Browns can average four yards a carry, it takes the pressure off Hoyer and it lessens the impact of a blitzing LeBeau defense. New coach Pettine displays sort of an old-school mentality and approach when it comes to football. Play good defense and run the ball. While rules are being relaxed for the sake of the passing game, the tried-and-true old-school method is not extinct. Ask the Seattle Seahawks if it still works OK.
If the Browns are to be in position to win Sunday, it may not be a thing of beauty. Offenses may not shine and many points may not be scored, but a win very well could happen. Hey, why not? Full-blown Browns pessimism doesn’t fully take effect until mid-October.