Steelers Need More Offense to Stay Ahead of Ravens, Browns


Joe Sargent/Getty Images Eric Ebron #85 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown with James Washington #13 during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at Heinz Field on September 27, 2020,

So far, so good for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As of today, Pittsburgh is undefeated and alone atop the AFC North with a 3-0 record. But the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are both 3-1, with Cleveland off to its best start since 2001. Meanwhile, Cincinnati (1-2-1) is looking competitive; in fact, the Bengals would be tied for first place if they were in the NFC East.

But Pittsburgh will probably need more from its offense going forward if it hopes to stay atop the AFC North. The Browns are averaging 31 points per game while the Ravens are putting up 30.5 PPG, this as compared to the Steelers, with a 26.6 PPG average through three contests.

Yet Pittsburgh hasn’t scored 30 points in a game in its last 23 contests, which is the longest such drought in the NFL, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This in a league where scoring points in bunches is more important than ever before. Heck, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott passed for over 500 yards on Sunday and his team lost to the Browns by 11 points, 49-38.

Cleveland’s Offense

For their part, the Browns have been thriving with a dominant ground game. The Browns currently lead the NFL in rushing yards (818), rushing average (5.88) and rushing touchdowns (8). That has made life easier for QB Baker Mayfield, who has completed 72 of 115 passes (62.6 percent) for 729 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

It remains to be seen how Cleveland’s offense will fare without running back Nick Chubb, who suffered an MCL injury against the Dallas Cowboys and will be placed on injured reserve.

Chubb was second in the NFL in rushing yards last season and he had 355 yards and four touchdowns this year before suffering his injury. Without him the Browns will rely on the trio of Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard, who have combined to rush for 394 yards this season.

Baltimore’s Offense

Meanwhile, Baltimore’s offense continues to be driven by its ground game. The Ravens are rushing for 160.8 yards per contest, good for fourth in the NFL. Quarterback Lamar Jackson leads the way with 39 carries for 235 yards, but the Ravens also have two running backs who average more than six yards per carry in Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins. Primary ball carrier Mark Ingram isn’t doing badly, either, with 34 carries for 148 yards (4.4 YPC) and two touchdowns.

In turn, that has helped Jackson pass the ball effectively (except against the Kansas City Chiefs, when he was held to career low in passing yards). Overall, Jackson has completed 67 of 98 passes for 769 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.

Next up on the schedule for the Ravens is the Bengals, who are finding success on offense with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. On Sunday Burrow became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 300 passing yards in three consecutive games during his team’s 33-25 win over Jacksonville.

Steelers vs. the AFC North

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh doesn’t begin its AFC North schedule until Sunday October 18 with a home game against the Browns. After the Cleveland game the Steelers will travel to Nashville to play the rescheduled game against the Tennessee Titans. Then comes a visit to Baltimore to take on the Ravens on November 1.

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