Week 1 Preview: Quarterbacks Versus Defenses


For every Cleveland Browns game this year we will preview the game by looking at how specific units match-up. While it is fun to compare the teams wide receivers to each other, we are far more interested in how the Browns defensive backfield matches up with the opposing receivers.  For our Week 1 Preview we will look at the offensive lines versus the defensive front 7s, pass catchers against their defenders, both sides of the running game and the quarterbacks versus the defense as a whole. We finish our series looking at the quarterbacks and how they match-up with the opposing defenses . Catch up on our series here:

Pass Catchers Versus Defenders   Offensive Lines versus the Front 7s  Running Backs versus Defenses

Pittsburgh Quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger

Cleveland Defense

Defensive Line: Armonty Bryant and Phil Taylor (DEs) and Atybah Rubin (NT)

Linebackers: Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger (OLBs) and Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson (ILBs)

Corners – Joe HadenJustin Gilbert and Buster Skrine

Safeties – Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner

We all know the Big Ben act. We have seen it for years. Those from western or southwestern Ohio have seen it for even longer than that from his high school days near Findlay and college at Miami of Ohio. Ben has a big arm, big body and big attitude. He can take hits, run for first downs and seems to will his team to first downs and wins. As he has aged injuries have crept up on him but he still plays a similar style of football.

He is an intelligent player who seems to get better as the game goes on. His ability to make quick decisions from in the pocket fit perfectly with Todd Hailey’s system. His ability to improvise and call plays from the line means he is lethal in 2 minute and late game situations.

Against the Browns defense he has been a torture. He is 9-0 against the Browns in Pittsburgh. The Browns have deployed numerous defenses but none as talented as this one. The lack of receiver help could be a big deal for the Browns, allowing them to lock down on the outside and attack on the inside. The key will be completing tackles. Mingo and Bryant have to be able to wrap up the big QB and not get “just miss sacks.” Whitner needs to focus on making a solid play on Ben instead of a big hit.

Ben’s ability to improvise will test the defenses ability to stay true to their assignments. An aggressive defense is fine, until the first wave gets beat. Then does the linebacker, corner or safety stick with their man/zone or jump up to try to get the QB? This is where Roethlisberger is lethal, putting touch or speed on a pass no matter what the throwing platform. The Steelers have a few fast guys that, if they get the ball in space, can hurt the Browns with long plays.

Advantage – Steelers – Until the Browns beat, or at least compete, against Big Ben regularly he gets the edge. He is not able to be stopped in just one area. He can hit quick from the pocket, get throw long, can put touch on the ball and can create with his feet. The Browns may have a Top 5 defense but Ben is going to stress it today.

Cleveland Quarterback

Brian Hoyer

Steelers Defense

Defensive Line: Cam Thomas and Cameron Heyward (DEs) and Steve McLendon

Linebackers – Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons

Corners – Ike TaylorCortez Allen and William Gay

Safeties – Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu

We have far less information on Hoyer than we do Roethlisberger. Hoyer played well last season in the games he was in but then was injured. This year’s pre-season, where he was expected to grab hold of the starters job, was anything but smooth. He struggled with making sound decisions and moving the offense. Some of it was a rhythm issue related to the competition with Johnny Manziel but it continued even after being named the starter.

Hoyer’s biggest strength is his football IQ and decision making. Those strengths are vital when playing the Zone Blitz Scheme of the Steelers. Hoyer spent time with the Steelers and should have good understanding of their defense. He has to be able to recognize who is coming on a rush and who is dropping into coverage. The lack of deep pass plays during pre-season, if continued, would allow Polamalu to roam near the line of scrimmage and create disruptions all over the field.

The Steelers defense has a tone of speed in the linebacking corp. Even the defensive line has speed, and height, for their positions. That means Hoyer will have to make quick accurate throws or the Steelers will have the speed and size to tip, intercept or just defend his throws.

Hoyer’s best place to attack is Ike Taylor who has lost a step, or three, and can be beat in a variety of ways. Unfortunately the Browns lack the big play receiver to make Taylor pay. Smart veteran Miles Austin can help. With somewhat undersized linebackers, who can fly, Hoyer will benefit from putting throws to Jordan Cameron a little higher than normal. This will get them over the backers but could open Cameron up to big hits from the safeties.

Advantage – Steelers – The Steelers defense may be in transition but Hoyer’s lack of experience, struggle in the pre-season and lack of weapons means he is behind the eight ball a little bit. Kyle Shanahan’s ability, or inability, to scheme around some of the Browns lack of skill position players will be key.

Overall – Tie – 4 -4 – We matched up the teams and come out with advantages in 4 places for each team. We expect a close game and will put out our prediction at noon today.

Do you agree with these 2 advantages going the Steelers way? Do you think the teams are closely matched?