The Steelers expectation is they'll have more players available on defense in Sunday night's playoff showdown with the Browns than they had in the regular-season finale in Cleveland.
The anticipation is a defense bolstered by the returns to the lineup of strong safety Terrell Edmunds, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, defensive tackle Cam Heyward and perhaps even inside linebacker Robert Spillane and outside linebacker Cassius Marsh will accomplish more than the Steelers did defensively in last Sunday's 24-22 loss.
"We gotta do a much better job of defending these guys than we did last (game)," defensive coordinator Keith Butler emphasized today. "We gotta do much better than we did. We gotta tackle. We gotta get 'em in third-and-long. We can't continuously be in third-and-4, third-and-3 and stuff like that, we can't do that.
"We gotta get 'em in third-and-long and put 'em behind and see what we can do."
The Steelers prepare for the Wild Card Round matchup against the Cleveland Browns
The Browns rushed for 192 yards last Sunday, including 108 on 14 carries by running back Nick Chubb.
Marsh was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list today.
Spillane, who took over for Devin Bush after Bush was lost for the season in the Steelers' 38-7 victory over the Browns on Oct. 18 at Heinz Field, remains on the Reserve/Injured list.
But Spillane began practicing again on Wednesday after missing the last four games and could be in position to be activated to the 53-man roster and resume stuffing the run.
"You watch (Tennessee running back) Derrick Henry run all year long and then who do you see jackin' him up?" Butler offered. "Spillane did that. I didn't see a whole lot of people doing that to that guy this year but Spillane did that.
"We're glad to have him back. We'll see how he does. It's always a tough time to come back when you haven't been doing it for a while. But he's a smart guy, you don't have to tell him something three or four times to get it done, he understands the concepts of what we're doing and he's a good football player."
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield contributed 44 rushing yards on six carries in last Sunday's meeting, including a 28-yard scamper.
"We messed up a couple times," Butler said.
The idea this time will be to do a better job of containing Mayfield on scrambles and/or bootlegs.
"He's a guy you gotta consider because he can scramble," Butler said. "If you notice what he does, he prefers to throw when he scrambles to his right and he prefers to run when he scrambles to his left. The thing we gotta do is make sure we don't let him out much and we keep him in the pocket and we make him see if he can see over those guys in front of him."
Last Sunday was also one of just four games in which the Steelers' defense failed to register a takeaway.
They collected 27 of those during the regular season (second only to Miami's 29) but went 1-3 in games in which a turnover wasn't generated, including losses in three of their final five games.
Two of those takeaways occurred in the October victory over the Browns.
"Turnover-takeaway ratio has always been big in football," Butler said. "Ever since I was playing, a long time ago, it's always been that way.
"We gotta get the ball out. We gotta get picks. What probably helped us the first game against those guys was (free safety) Minkah (Fitzpatrick) intercepted a pass early, took it for a touchdown. Later on we got another interception and that matters a lot. It deals with kinda the psyche of the team, the psyche of the quarterback, or who's carrying the ball if they put it on the ground. So it always matters, especially in games like this.
"This game right here, all the dadgum cards are on the table. You don't get a chance to make mistakes and make up for those mistakes the next week. So for us, we need to get turnovers. We need to get sacks. We need to get No. 24 (Chubb) on the ground."