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Insider Only Steelers-Browns Fallout: Signficant Coaching Advantage plays out, Devlin Hodges/Deep Passing Game & a Special Defensive Unit

Mike Tomlin Moving up the Coach of the Year Power Rankings

Coaching, Coaching, Coaching.

You want to see an elite coach in crisis management go head-to-head vs a rookie coach over his head, go watch the game tape from Steelers – Browns again.

Mike Tomlin for the second straight week put on a coaching clinic as he’s emerged near the top of the Coach of the Year chain.

Falling behind 10-0 to the Cleveland Browns with Devlin Hodges as your QB might have looked like a death sentence but the final 35 minutes of play saw a complete reversal.

What changed first was a defensive adjustment.

Pittsburgh had great difficulty in stopping the Browns 2-back formation with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the misdirection passing game. The first quarter-in-a-half looked like it was going to be a long day for the Steelers defense where Pittsburgh could not pick up the combination of Chubb/Hunt out of the backfield that saw the Steelers being outnumbered in coverage.

One coach was able to make a pivotal adjustment at the half and the coach on the other side had no answers. Defensive players marveled after the game that Mike Tomlin saved the game in combating the Browns offensive look Pittsburgh had not seen much before.


2. What was so impressive with the Steelers 20-13 win was how on both sides of the ball they physically bullied the Browns over the final two-and-a-half quarters. They punched Cleveland in the mouth without much fightback.

This was a knockout blow to the Browns season who will need to win out and get a ton of help to get into the post-season.

From Benny Snell wearing the Browns down in the second half, to Vance McDonald bulldozing his way for a key first down late in the game, Pittsburgh once again just keeps excelling at the little things to gut wins out.


3. Devlin Hodges was the obvious choice to named the starting quarterback vs the Browns for one clear reason:

A stronger likelihood of hitting on deep passes due to a much better ability than Rudolph with his ball placement on passes 15+ yards. With how good this defense is, hitting on 2-3 deep passes to turn momentum on drives might just be enough as it was Sunday vs the Browns.

Hodges was 14/21 for 221 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception and what a stat this is in the Hodges – Baker Mayfield comparison.

Hodges averaged 9.0 yards per pass, Mayfield averaged 4.4 yards per pass. Just insane from a guy who was nothing more than a body in training camp against the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft who despite his struggles this season is going to be a superstar.

Hodges was sacked one time for 13 yards, Mayfield sacked 5 times.

As for that deep passing game…….

Hodges completed passes of 44 yards, 31 yards, 30 yards and 28 yards in the win. On the third quarter drive to go up 17-10, don’t overlook the pass interference play in the end zone on 3rd and 7 from the Browns 12. Hodges ability to put the ball in spots for his receivers to make plays stood out on that one too when Cain got the pass interference call to set up 1st and goal at the one.


4. This Steelers defense is special and the young talent puts this group in position for it not to just be a one year wonder. They’re building something here.

5 sacks, 2 takeaways vs the Browns, Pittsburgh is now 1st in the NFL in takeaways and 2nd in interceptions/sack since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick, a span of 10 games.

We knew T.J. Watt was really good but this special of a player? Just hitting his prime, he’s going to be a defensive player of the year candidate for years to come and you can add Fitzpatrick right with him. Talk about building blocks for the next several years.

And the Steelers are doing this without Stephon Tuitt who was playing at a pro bowl level before his injury.

The signing of Steven Nelson also doesn’t get talked about enough. Hard to find a better corner/safety combo right now with Joe Haden/Steven Nelson and Fitzpatrick roaming the middle at safety.

How good this defense has become and Devin Bush is far down the list of reasons why they are this good right now. Few saw that coming.


5. Do the Steelers have a new No. 1 running back they can lean on?

Benny Snell has been a surprise development over the last two weeks in showing signs of being the lead-dog.

Tomlin touted Snell after the game of looking the part of a lead-back and it’s the yards after the contact and ability to get those extra yards that has been a nice change of pace from Conner this season.

In three of the last four games, Snell has carried the ball 15 times or more and he’s certainly looked the part.

17 carries for 75 yards (4.4 Avg) vs LAC
21 Carries for 98 yards (4.7 Avg) vs CIN
16 Carries for 63 Yards (3.9 Avg) vs CLE

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com