Prepping with an edge: The Steelers defense ranks 30th against the run in the NFL, but the last time they took on the Cleveland Browns they were able to hold all-everything Nick Chubb to just 61 yards on 16 carries.
Chubb is having an incredible season, with 1,143 yards rushing, and everyone knows stopping, containing, or just slowing him down is the key this week.
"Nick Chubb is awesome," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He's got great vision, contact balance and patience as a runner. He's a tough tackle. He's not given enough credit for his second and third level running. Oftentimes when he gets in those spaces, man, it's 'katie bar the door.' Very rarely do you see him get run down, but you don't ever hear him mentioned in terms of breakaway speed, but his video is his calling card. We understand that.
"We understood that last time. We were able to put together a solid game at least in terms of minimizing that component of it. It's going to be critical this time around, probably doubly so, and so we're preparing with an edge. We expect those guys to be preparing with an edge."
Tomlin joked when asked if he expected the Browns to change things up this week to combat what the Steelers did in Week 8 to contain Chubb.
"Why don't you ask them, man," laughed Tomlin. "That would help. When you get an opportunity to talk to (Browns Coach Kevin) Stefanski, ask him that."
Tomlin continued, though, on a more serious note.
"The road is getting narrow for us and for them, and I think that's a component of this that I'm going to keep talking about with our guys during the course of the workweek," said Tomlin. "We've absorbed some negativity. They've absorbed some negativity. It's about getting the best out of ourselves, and I'm sure it's the same for them.
"They're making some decisions about how they want to play ball this week, what best engineers victory for them, and so all we have is our in-stadium experience against them on what's on tape, and our in-stadium experience plus what's on tape tells us that we'd better work our tails off to minimize their run game and Nick Chubb, and we'd better not let (defensive end) Myles Garrett wreck it."
Time to prepare: The Steelers and Browns will go into Monday night's game at Heinz Field both still in playoff chase and fighting for a spot, while both teams are coming off a disappointing loss. With two games remaining, the one thing both teams are doing is focusing on one game at a time only.
"I'm so glad that we have an additional day's preparation this week," said Tomlin. "Obviously, this is a big game. We've got to shake that baggage or residue off of us, as do everybody that's in a similar circumstance that we're in, as we're getting in the waning moments of this 2021 regular season and we're losing opportunities to state a case for ourselves.
"The Cleveland Browns are very much in a similar circumstance, and so from that standpoint, we're going to a stadium that has a very level playing field. Both teams are fighting tooth and nail for positioning. Both teams have absorbed some negativity, particularly of late in terms of significant games, and our ability to shake that off -- specifically speaking about us, our ability to shake that off and get singularly, professionally focused and have good preparation days is a component for us."
Playing on Monday night football can be tough on the backend, when the week afterwards is condensed.
But leading into the game, it gives teams an extra day to prepare, to use in a multitude of ways as the season progresses. Late in the season can be much different than an early Monday night game, and Tomlin explained his plan for this week for the team.
"We've got an additional day to work with this week," said Tomlin. "We're pushing our week back in an effort to be inclusive. Some of the guys are working their way back from injury and COVID will be given an additional day when we approach it that way.
"Oftentimes when we play on Monday night early in the season, we'll extend the latter part of our work where we get two days of work at situational ball, third down, red zone, short yardage, but given our current state with people working their way back from COVID, people potentially working their way back from injury, we thought it was appropriate. It also gives our staff an additional day to address the planning component of preparation and look at division of labor that will best put us in position to do the things that we need to do to secure victory this week."
Take a closer look at scenes from the Steelers' Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs
Getting in line: The Steelers gave Adrian Klemm permission to leave his post as the team's offensive line coach to accept a position at the University of Oregon where he will serve as the school's associate head coach, offensive line coach and run game coordinator.
Tomlin explained why he let Klemm depart during the season, and also addressed assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan, who he said will be a candidate to replace Klemm.
"Let me start by saying I'm so appreciative of his efforts," said Tomlin of Klemm, who was in his first season as offensive line coach. "The landscape that is coaching is changing each and every year. We see it. Decisions are being made earlier in the processes. Colleges, the processes are happening faster, people are making hires and so forth. The financial component in our business is making college football much more competitive. We're all getting faced with challenges that we really weren't faced with in the past.
"We made the decision, I made the decision, to allow Klemm to move on to Oregon. It provides tremendous clarity for us as we zero in on the last component of this season. It also gives me an opportunity to evaluate C-Mo (Chris Morgan), who will get an opportunity to be elevated in his role. C-Mo is very credible. He was a lead line coach of the Atlanta Falcons for a number of years before he got here. He's also had the unique perspective of being in a support capacity throughout the 2021 season but also having intimate enough relationships with what's going on among the staff and among the players. I'm really excited about his elevation and the component that it could bring to us.
"Also, I think the move eliminates the potential of any questions regarding distractions and so forth. And let me be clear. I had no reservations about Klemm's commitment and his willingness to work in detail, but it's the potential perception that you want to combat, whether it's inside or outside. We want to eliminate any potential questions that may occur in that regard, even before they develop."