Welcome to the Realbrownsfans.com mailbag. The takes are unobtrusive and won’t overpower you, just like a squirt from a free Heinz ketchup packet. Each week we will be doing a round table with a few contributors of the RealBrownsFans site. This week have RCF members Chris Richani, Dan Cooksey, Supersurge and Ohio talking about the Browns matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you have any questions you’d like to be answered in our mailbag, comment below or in the forums!
After a long wait, Browns fans had an extended look at Case Keenum. Break down his strengths and weaknesses in Baker’s absence.
Ohio – Keenum not only has a lot of NFL experience, but also has plenty of experience in Stefanski’s offense. Additionally, he understands his role on this team is to manage the game and protect the ball at all costs and he is more than capable of doing those things. With that said, he doesn’t have much of an arm left. This was evident during the Preseason and was on display against Denver as well. He just doesn’t have the arm strength to push the ball downfield anymore.
Cooksey – Well he clearly knows the offense so he knows the concepts and where the ball is supposed to go. Even on the deep pass to OBJ, it was the right read just a bad throw. He’s tough, he has a couple of decent throws in his arsenal and he CAN move the ball a little. He has always been a guy who can move the ball at times, a better Bridgewater so to speak.
The problem is that he isn’t all that naturally accurate and his arm is pop gun at best. Does that mean that he cannot move the ball? Not really, but it does mean that teams will make it very tough on him to make a pass within 10-20 yards. He holds onto the ball a little longer at times because he does have that same “Baker” gene where he wants to make a play. We didn’t see it against the Broncos, but he also has a tendency towards turnovers as well.
Surge – Keenum’s weakness IS his weakness. But his strength is knowing what you are going to get. He can run the offense well enough without actually threatening the defense vertically.
Richani – You know what you’re going to get with Keenum. That can be both good and bad. Keenum’s arm strength (or lack thereof) makes Browns fans appreciate Baker Mayfield. And contrary to what one might think, Keenum throws some pretty turnover-worthy balls despite the perception of him being a game manager. But he has a great handle on the offense and provides steady leadership at the position. You could do worse in a backup QB.
The offense returns Jack Conklin, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb, what do they need to do to mask Keenum’s weaknesses if Baker sits again?
Surge – RUN. THE. BALL. Chubb and Johnson should be able to exploit the Steelers who are giving up 4.3 yards per carry on the season. That should open the screen game as well.
Richani – The run game must dominate. Keenum is not capable of beating this Steelers defense with his arm without a harrowing threat of the run game creating play action opportunities. The return of Conklin and Chubb combined with a long week of rest for Wills should help fortify the ground attack. Jarvis will be ready in the play action game.
Cooksey – They need to sell every play could be either a pass or a run. The whole offense runs on deception, and it’s what makes it so hard to beat the Browns offense. Every play, from run blocking sets to how a WR begins his route, looks the same. By the time the defense can react, it means the Browns already have a step on the defense.
Conklin obvious solidifies the right side of the offensive line to help in both the running and passing game. Landry will give you a fairly reliable and open WR within the range the Browns are likely going to operate a ton, not to mention a perimeter run blocker. But Nick Chubb gives the Browns the explosive ability that they did not have with Johnson last week. He can turn a run into a touchdown from anywhere on the field and that’s an important thing the Browns get back with those players. They can make a screen pass from Keenum and turn it into a quick score.
Ohio – All three of them figure to play against the Steelers, though Landry did not practice (Wednesday), so that will be something to keep an eye on. But those guys don’t need to do anything different than they would any other week. If they just do their job, the Browns will have a chance to win most games, even with Keenum at QB.
The games against the Chiefs, Chargers, and Cardinals were high scoring affairs, what do you expect against Ben and the Steelers?
Cooksey – Old school, gritty, low scoring defensive battle. The Browns have shown the ability to defend bad to middling offenses, so they can stay in the game against a bad Steelers defense. The problem will be on the other side. While they still have the reputation, the Broncos defense is a below average to bad unit in the NFL. That’s not the same case with these Steelers. In fact, with Keenum at the helm, these teams are very similar in how they are going to play the game.
But the key difference is the Browns have an offensive line that can withstand the Steelers front 7 onslaught. We saw it in the last two games last year against the Steelers and expect more of the same on Sunday. It will be a real slog, and if Keenum starts turning the ball over then the Browns have some major problems. But Big Ben is prone to those same mistakes now, but has maybe half the arm that Keenum has now. The Steelers offense isn’t even really all that close to the Broncos in so far as the Broncos have game breaking talent at WR.
This is a game where the first to 17 might win.
Surge – I expect a lower scoring game this week. I expect the Browns to play the time of possession game on offense, and the D-Line to get pressure all day.
Richani – Divisional games are weird. Despite Pittsburgh’s offensive woes, I expect the Browns defense to give up frustratingly long, sustained drives. Hopefully, however, they are able to hold them to field goals. Najee Harris might get bottled up in the run game, but I expect him to gash the Browns in the passing game. The Steelers defense is not what it once was, but they have plenty of talent to give Keenum and company more trouble than Denver did. The 17 points mustered up against Denver will not be enough this week, so the Browns will have to find ways to finish drives with touchdowns.
Ohio – Definitely expect a low scoring game. Vegas currently has the over/under at 43, which seems appropriate given the state of these teams.
Predictions for Sunday?
Ohio – Browns have lots of players I’d currently consider questionable to play this game, but assuming Chubb, Conklin and Landry all play, that is a difference maker in the game. Chubb & D’Ernest carry the Browns to victory in a hard fought defensive battle.
Cooksey – 24-10 Browns. Steelers have a good defense, but their offense is not good at all and the Browns are going to feast off of it.
Richani – Steelers win 24-17
Surge – Browns 27-17
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