After checking off the list of winning a home opener since 2004, the Cleveland Browns now move on to Monday Night Football vs. yet another divisional opponent. And while the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t near the team they have been in the past, there's no doubt that they will be ready to hit the field after being embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers last weekend at home.
It’s tough to call this game a “must-win," but if the Browns are serious about winning the division in 2023, they must win the games they’re supposed to. And the fact is, the Steelers are a team the Browns need to beat twice to have a legitimate shot at an AFC North title.
With the weather being such a big factor in week one we didn’t get a great feel for what this offense can be in 2023, but we did see that Deshaun Watson took a huge step to returning to his 2020 self. Even though Joe Burrow did appear affected by the rain, this defense suffocated them out of the stadium and never gave them a chance.
As we move on to Pittsburgh, which is a very winnable game, here are a few reasons the Browns could lose, as well as reasons the Browns could come away 2-0 on the season after Monday night.
Reason the Cleveland Browns could lose – Pass Protection
With Jack Conklin officially out for the season, that means the rookie Dawand Jones will get his first official start in the NFL vs. All-Pro edge rusher, T.J. Watt, who has always had a way of destroying the Cleveland Browns.
Unfortunately, Jones isn’t who I’m worried about. On the left side of the ball, Jedrick Wills continues to struggle at left tackle and Watson was running for his life much of last week.
In my head, I pictured Jones replacing Wills in the next four to five weeks, but now it appears that unless James Hudson has gotten substantially better, we are stuck with Wills.
The Steelers are angry and still have good pass rushers, and if the Browns can’t protect Watson, it doesn’t matter how good this defense is they will struggle to come away with a win.