Cheat Sheet: Steelers vs. Browns


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The Steelers are at home as they face the Browns at Acrisure Stadium.
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The Steelers and Browns have met 143 times dating back to 1950. Of those 143 matchups, only three have been in the postseason. Pittsburgh is 2-1 in the playoffs against the Browns. Overall, this series sits at 80-62-1 in favor of the Steelers. Cleveland started off with an eight-game winning streak, won 12 of the first 13 contests, and only had two losses out of the first 18 times these teams squared off. Starting in December, 1962, the tides greatly turned to the Steelers' favor. The Browns won just four games between that point and October of 1983. Even more extreme, starting in January, 1994, Pittsburgh won 42 of the next 50 games with a tie thrown in during that time.


  • These divisional rivals met last year in Week 3 in Cleveland with the Browns winning 29-17 and in Week 18 in Pittsburgh, a game the Steelers won 28-14 to conclude a four-game winning streak to finish up the season. 
  • The Browns have gone 15-straight seasons with a negative point differential, dating back to 2008. That is tied for the longest streak of its kind in NFL history. Last season, the Browns were outscored by 20 points. 
  • On a per-snap basis, Cleveland was the fourth-youngest team in the NFL last year. The Steelers' offense was the youngest in the league and Browns' defense was the second-youngest on that side of the ball. Overall, just seven teams were younger than Pittsburgh on a per-snap basis in 2022. 
  • Last year, the Browns scored 42 touchdowns. Their opponents also scored 42 touchdowns. Cleveland's running game averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but the Browns also allowed 4.7 yards per rush. 
  • Cleveland was penalized for offensive holding more than any other team last year. They were called for offensive holding 21 more times than their opponents and on average handed their opponents 11.3 penalties yards per game just in holding calls.
  • Cleveland finished the 2022 season 2-6 in one-score games. 
  • Last year the Steelers offense ran 65.2 plays per game. But Pittsburgh's defense was on the field for just 60.2 plays per game on average. 
  • The Steelers were 7-0 in games last season when they scored first compared to 2-8 when the opponent got in the scoreboard first. Dating back to the 2019 season, the Browns are 3-25 when losing at the half.
  • TJ Watt leads the NFL 80.5 sacks since entering the league in 2017. Watt is also first in quarterback hits and forced fumbles during that time. Watt and Garrett combined for four sacks in Week 1, three by Watt, who also forced two fumbles, recovering one. Garrett is tied with Aaron Donald for second in the league in sacks since 2017 with 75.5. 
  • In Week 1, the Browns produced 21 first downs and gave up just six to Cincinnati. They possessed the football for 35:50. Meanwhile, the Steelers possessed the football for just 22:37 in their loss to San Francisco. 
  • With the exception of Kansas City (which had a bye and didn't play a game the week after playing the 49ers), every team that played San Francisco in 2022 lost the following week, collectively going 0-15. That is the first time in NFL history that has occurred. 
  • Last week was the Steelers' greatest margin of defeat at home during the Mike Tomlin era. But in the past four games in which the Steelers have lost by 20 points or more, they have come back to win the next game. In Tomlin's career, they have lost by 20 or points 12 times. After such a loss, they are 10-2. That .833 winning percentage over that time is the best in the NFL in such games. 
  • Tomlin is 25-6-1 in his career against the Browns. 
  • Since 1990, teams that start the season 0-2 have made the playoffs just 11.5% of the time and have won their division just 5.9% of the time. But remember, there are 7 playoff spots per conference now compared to six for the vast majority of this timeframe.


  • The Steelers 4.9 yards per play in 2022 ranked 27th. Cleveland's defense gave up 5.4 yards per play, which was 18th. 
  • Pittsburgh's offense created just one play last year of 50 or more yards. That was the fewest in the NFL. 
  • In 2022, the Browns were fifth in net passing yards allowed and fourth in completion percentage allowed. The Browns defense allowed just 196.2 pass yards per game last year. Only four defenses were better. 
  • Garrett has never had a teammate reach double digit sacks. New addition Za'Darius Smith has accomplished this in three of the past four seasons. Garrett was the most double-teamed (3.13%) edge rusher in the league last year. 
  • Garrett's 16 sacks accounted for 47% of the Browns team sack production. Taven Bryan was second on the team with just three sacks in 2022. 
  • In 2022, the Browns allowed just an average of 2.3 points per first quarter of games. That was the best in the league. But they were 19th-best in the second quarters, and 26th in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. 
  • Last year, the Browns saw passes targeted between the numbers just 18% of passing attempts. Only the Jets defense was lower. 
  • Diontae Johnson has been targeted at least 144 times and caught at least 86 passes in each of the last three seasons. During that time, he averaged 9.6 targets, 5.9 catches, and 61.8 yards per game played. He will miss this game with a hamstring injury. 
  • George Pickens' 15.2-yard average depth of target as a rookie was far and away the highest of all Steelers receivers. Pickett had a passer rating of 119.5 when targeting Pickens last year. That was the third-highest amongst all quarterback-wide receiver duos with a minimum of 50 targets behind just Tua Tagovailoa/Jaylen Waddle and Josh Allen/Stefon Diggs.
  • Pat Freiermuth's average depth of target went from 5.3 yards as a rookie to 8.3 yards in 2022. And his yards per target jumped from 6.3 to 7.5.
  • In Week 1, Joe Burrow threw for just 82 yards on 31 pass attempts in Cleveland. Burrow only had one completion on a pass that traveled 10 or more air yards and was just one of nine on such attempts. Burrow's 82 passing yards was the third-fewest in a game by a player with 30-plus pass attempts since 1950. 
  • The Browns forced Burrow to attempt 71% of his passes outside the numbers, the highest in his career. He averaged under two yards per throw on such passes. 
  • In that game, the Bengals went three-and-out on seven possessions and Cincinnati punted 10 times. The Bengals generated just 142 total yards and just six total first downs. The longest completion the Browns gave up went for just 12 yards and Cincinnati converted just two of 15 third-down opportunities. 
  • Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins combined to catch five passes for 39 yards. Chase and Higgins were targeted a combined 17 times. 
  • The Browns blitzed Burrow on 38% of his dropbacks. On those instances, Burrow was 2 of 11 for 16 yards. Last year, Burrow was blitzed on 16% of his dropbacks - the lowest rate in the NFL. Against San Francisco, Pickett had a 36.7 passer rating when blitzed. 
  • When the Browns blitzed a defensive back last year, they allowed just 3.1 yards per play. That was best in the NFL. 
  • Pickens aligned on the outside for 87% of his snaps last week. Calvin Austin aligned on the outside 85% of the time against the 49ers. But Pickens' average depth of target was 12.6 yards downfield compared to 3.7 for Austin. Both players got between 14-16% of the Steelers target share. Meanwhile Allen Robinson, who mostly operated out of the slot, was targeted on 16% of Pittsburgh's dropbacks and on average, 7.9 yards downfield. 
  • Last year, the Browns were dead last in keeping their cornerbacks on respective sides of the field, meaning their cornerbacks often traveled with specific receivers. 
  • In Week 1, the Steelers operated out of the shotgun 90% of their offensive snaps. That was the fourth-highest percentage in the league. 
  • Last week, with a new defensive coordinator in Jim Schwartz, Garrett aligned as an off-the-ball linebacker for four snaps. Those four snaps resulted in a sack and three incomplete passes. Until this year, Garrett has aligned off the ball just 21 times in his previous six seasons. Garrett also dropped into coverage in this game on several occasions. 
  • When the opponent had three or more wide receivers on the field last season, Cleveland's defense allowed 5.5 yards per rushing attempt. That was the worst in the NFL. 
  • Cleveland allowed 22 rushing touchdowns last year. That was the third most in the NFL. 
  • Last week, the Steelers rushed for 41 yards. The Browns allowed just 75 yards in Week 1. 
  • Najee Harris has run for 415 yards and four rushing touchdowns in his four games vs. the Browns, who also allowed the Bengals running backs to average 4.4 yards per carry in Week 1. 
  • Only four defenses used their nickel package a lower percentage of the time than Cleveland last season. In Week 1, the Browns used their nickel with five defensive backs on 87% of their snaps, the sixth-highest percentage. 
  • Only five defenses committed more defensive pass interference penalties than Cleveland last season.


  • The Browns 5.3 yards per play in 2022 ranked 18th. Pittsburgh's defense gave up 5.5 yards per play, which was 20th.
  • In terms of plays per game, only five offenses ran more plays (65.6) than the Browns last year. 
  • When combining rushes of 10-plus yards and receptions of 20-plus only six offenses had a higher percentage (10.9%) of such plays than the Browns. But the Steelers defense was 8th-best in yards per carry allowed. 
  • The Steelers were the sixth-heaviest blitz team in the league in 2022. 
  • Pittsburgh's defense was in its dime package 18.7% of the time last season. That was the fifth-highest percentage in the league. But in Week 1, the Steelers were in their base 3-4 on 41% of the defensive snaps, which was the third-highest of such usage. The Steelers were only in nickel 38% of the time, the 31st-lowest percentage last week. 
  • On three offenses ran more plays last week than the Browns. 
  • On first down snaps in Week 1, Cleveland produced a first down 26% of the time. Only the Dolphins were better. 
  • Last week, Cleveland utilized play action on 45% of its dropbacks. That was the highest percentage of any offense in Week 1. 
  • Nine different Browns were targeted in Week 1 and seven pass catchers saw multiple targets from Deshaun Watson. 
  • In 10 career games against the Browns, Watt has registered 15 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 24 quarterback hits, an interception, and a fumble recovery. He's had multiple sacks against Cleveland three different times. 
  • Alex Highsmith had four sacks against the Browns last season. In those two games, the Steelers had nine times. 
  • Watson was sacked on 10.5% of his dropbacks last year. That was the 39th best percentage. His 3.27-second time to throw average was the highest in the league. 
  • With Watson in the lineup, the Browns have generated just 1.22 points per drive which was 30th during that timeframe. Over his six games last season, Watson completed a career-low 58.2% of his passes. He also would have had career-low marks in yards per pass attempt (6.5), yards per completion (11.1), and touchdown rate (4.1%) while 2.9% interception rate was his highest since Watson's rookie season. 
  • The Browns had fewer than 200 net passing yards in five of their six games with Watson as the starting quarterback. 
  • In Watson's three full seasons, he has never dipped below 4,400 passing yards and has an 89-29 TD/INT ratio. In his last full season (2020), Watson's 4,800 passing yards led the league, and he had a TD/INT ratio of 33/7.
  • On passes 20 or more yards downfield, Watson threw two interceptions … against just three completions in 2022. 
  • In 2022, Amari Cooper had the highest team target share (26.1%) and target per route run (26.1%) of his career. Cooper was targeted 132 times, which matched his career high. His nine receiving touchdowns were also the most of his career, but he averaged .64 touchdowns per game with Jacoby Brissett as quarterback compared to .33 with Watson. 
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones had a seven-game streak of producing at least 50 receiving yards last season but fell to under 45 receiving yards in six of his final seven games. 
  • Last week, Cooper only played 45 snaps compared to 66 by Peoples-Jones and 52 by Elijah Moore. Cooper only ran a route on 22 of the Browns 35 pass plays compared to 28 by Peoples-Jones and Moore. Cooper only played four of Cleveland's 18 fourth quarter snaps and 11 of the Browns 17 first quarter snaps. Peoples-Jones and Moore were each in the game for 80% of Cleveland's pass plays compared to 63% from Cooper. And Moore's 23% target rate led the team. Moore ran 18 routes from the slot and 10 routes from the outside. 
  • Against the Steelers last week, not only did Brandon Aiyuk catch all eight of his targets. But all eight of those targets went for either first downs or touchdowns. His only catch that didn't gain at least 10 yards was his 8-yard touchdown reception. 
  • In 2022, only Travis Kelce had more red zone targets than David Njoku among all NFL tight ends. Njoku finished eighth in both receptions per game (4.4) and receiving yards per game (44.9) among tight ends. But Njoku generated 1.89 yards per route run with Brissett vs. 1.03 with Watson. Njoku did receive 10 red targets from Watson. No other Browns pass catcher had more than six with Watson behind center.
  • Three Browns tight ends played at least 21 snaps last week with Njoku leading the way with 56. Njoku, Harrison Bryant and Jordan Akins were often on the field together in 13 Personnel. Bryant and Akins were in the game for 23% and 20% of the team's pass plays compared to 71% from Njoku. But Njoku was targeted on just 12.5% of his routes, his lowest percentage since Week 1 last season. 
  • Cleveland used six or more offensive linemen at a higher percentage of its snaps than any offense in the league last year. Last week, the Browns used this tactic on 5.6% of their snaps, the second highest percentage in the NFL. 
  • The Browns averaged 5.5 yards per rushing attempt last season, which is well over the league average of 4.8. Last week, Cleveland produced 5.2 yards per carry. 
  • In Watson's six games last season, he averaged 29.2 rushing yards per game. 
  • Over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Chubb gained at least 10 yards on 16.6% of his rushing attempts. He has also gained 20 or more yards on 4.7% of his rushes. Both are best in the league over that time. Since 2018, Chubb ranks second in rushing yards as well as rushing touchdowns. 
  • Chubb has been held under 30 catches and 240 receiving yards every year under Kevin Stefanski. He averages just 31.6 targets per year since entering the league. And over the past three seasons, Chubb has played just 53.1% of the Browns' offensive snaps. Last week, Chubb played just 49% of the snaps. 
  • Throughout NFL history, there are only 129 instances of a running back averaging five or more yards per carry with at least 190 carries. 
  • Last week, Chubb ran for 106 yards and caught four passes, the most of any Browns player. However, Chubb and Jerome Ford were each in the game for 34% of Cleveland's pass plays, but Chubb was the only running back that earned a target against the Bengals. Of the Browns' 13 plays on third downs, Chubb was only the field three times. He did receive a 64% overall touch rate and 11% target share. His career average to this point had been 52% and 6% respectively. 
  • Chubb has yet to score a rushing touchdown with Watson as the Browns quarterback. 
  • As a team, the Browns gained 82 rushing yards before contact in Week 1. That was the second-highest amount in the league. 
  • The Browns offense was 26th in second quarter scoring last year, but eighth in the fourth quarter of play. 
  • With Watt on the field a year ago, the Steelers allowed 58.6% completion rate, 6.7 yards per pass attempt, and a 65.7 passer rating. With Watt off the field, they surrendered a 63.6% completion rate, 8.2 yards per pass attempt, and a 105.0 rating to opposing passers. 
  • The Steelers defense has allowed 21 or more points in just 14 games since the start of the 2021 season. That is the fourth-fewest in the league. 
  • Cleveland's offense is the most expensive in the NFL by a wide margin. The Browns have $20 million more committed on this side of the ball than any other NFL team.


  • The Browns special teams unit collectively was the youngest in the entire league on a per-snap basis in 2022. 
  • Cleveland made just 75% of its field goal attempts last season. Opponents made 86%. That was one of the widest discrepancies in the league. 
  • In Week 1, here are the Steelers leaders in special teams snaps: Nick Herbig 20, James Pierre, Connor Heyward, Mark Robinson, Myles Boykin, Elijah Riley, and Miles Killebrew each played 17, and Elandon Roberts played 14 snaps on special teams.


January 5th, 2003: AFC Wild Card Game: Steelers 36, Browns 33, Heinz Field

This is the most recent playoff confrontation between the Steelers and Cleveland. Late in the third quarter, Cleveland was winning 24-7. Kelly Holcomb finished with 429 passing yards, but the Browns could only muster up 38 rushing yards and a lack of a running game made it very difficult to put Pittsburgh away. Tommy Maddox led a furious late game comeback and the Steelers scored 22 fourth quarter points to advance in the next round to take on the Titans in the divisional round. Meanwhile, the Browns couldn't find their way back into the playoffs after this loss until 2020.


Browns RB Nick Chubb vs. Steelers Linebackers

The Steelers got Christian McCaffrey last week. This week it is Chubb. Those two are quite different, but they are also probably the best two running backs in football. Chubb is the better pure ball carrier while McCaffrey is a far better weapon as a receiver. However, it wasn't McCaffrey's pass catching prowess that hurt Pittsburgh, it was what he did on the ground. The Steelers cannot allow Chubb to do the same in Week 2. 

Steelers Pass Protection vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett

Last week the Steelers got Nick Bosa. This week it is Garrett. Along with Watt and Micah Parsons, these are the elite tier of NFL edge rushers in today's NFL. Like Bosa, Garrett will come off either edge. The Browns actually lined him up in an off-ball linebacker position last week with Garrett attacking up the middle. Unlike in recent seasons, Garrett has much more around him now. So, doubling this great player has gotten much more difficult.