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DAWG DAYS: The Three Deep in Week 2 — Browns vs. Steelers 

DAWG DAYS: The Three Deep in Week 2 — Browns vs. Steelers | Tipico
DAWG DAYS: The Three Deep in Week 2 — Browns vs. Steelers | Tipico
Chris McNeil
Published: 2023-09-13

Dawg Days is a weekly feature by Chris McNeil on the Cleveland Browns. The Three Deep section tackles facets of the Browns’ upcoming game from all sides — advantages, disadvantages, and a final view on the contest.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we sit today, the Cleveland Browns are at the top of the league, having won an opener for the second straight season. Not only that, but the Browns also dominated the AFC champions from two years ago in all facets of the game.

Sunday saw the Browns really establish their identity as a tough defensive team with a strong running game at their core. Since their return to the league, the Browns have struggled to establish an identity that they could build and rely upon during a long NFL season — even in the playoff season in 2020.

They now seem to have that under Jim Schwartz. His creativity in moving guys like Myles Garrett around into the LB position at times and positioning him opposite the center gave the Bengals fits all afternoon. At one point Garrett even approached the line doing crossover dribbles right in the eye line of Bengals center Ted Karras then immediately blew past him to put pressure on Joe Burrow.

On the opposite side of the ball, Nick Chubb was the constant drumbeat the offense needed to keep momentum despite tough conditions.

I closely watched the weather all week for the opener trying to make sure I had my kids adequately prepared for whatever conditions Sunday along Lake Erie could bring. All the weather reports were unanimous: mid 70s and less than a 10 percent chance of rain.


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Sunday, however, came and brought a Charlie Brown-esque cloud that settled in directly over the stadium and dumped rain constantly throughout the game — soaking everyone and creating havoc for both teams in the passing game. The Browns weathered the onslaught with Chubb and some timely downfield passes to put up points, and they put away the Bengals early in the fourth quarter.

After passing the first divisional test of the season, they have another big test this week against the Steelers on the road. The Browns come in as a road favorite (Tipico -2.5) for the first time since Acrisure Stadium (we can still call it Heinz Field, right?) opened in 2001 and the first time they have been a road favorite since week 1 of 1989, when exactly zero players on the Browns roster were even born yet. Pittsburgh (0-1) limps into this game after getting beat up by the 49ers in their opener last week.

Strong Side

As I talked about last week (add link) — the emphasis in the offseason for the Browns was to fix the defense. The Jim Schwartz defense performed exactly as we had hoped. The defensive front got after Joe Burrow all day and the secondary was lights out, handcuffing the Bengals receivers. Bengals receiver Tee Higgins didn’t even record a single catch in the game.

This week the opposing signal-caller will be Kenny Pickett. He struggled last week against the 49ers- to put it lightly- throwing for 232 yds on 31/46 passing while his QB rating was 68.4. He threw two picks and averaged only five yards per attempt. I look for more Myles Garrett crossovers as they make life miserable for an AFC North QB for the second week in a row.

The Browns will also catch a break as the Steelers will be missing two key players due to injury. Kenny Pickett will be without WR Diontae Johnson, who left Sunday’s game early in the second half after leading the team in receiving with three catches for 48 yards. 

This is a big blow on the offensive side of the ball for the Steelers. Kenny Pickett will have to find other weapons to target after already struggling to get on the same page with his receiving crew.

On defense, pride of The Ohio State University and six-time Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward will be heading to the IR after suffering an injury in the opener as well. The Steelers were already thin on the line with Armon Watts and DeMarvin Leal both banged up and now they will be at a severe disadvantage trying to stop Nick Chubb and getting after Deshaun Watson in the passing game.

Weak Side

The Browns weren’t without bad injury news of their own in week 1. Right tackle Jack Conklin went down with a freak knee injury that occurred at the conclusion of a play — an unfortunate outcome for someone that tried so hard to get back on the field. The Browns made a roster move to shore up that position this week and veteran tackle Ty Nsekhe was added to the roster on Tuesday — he looks to be the new starter.

This will be a disappointment to some fans as 6-8, 275-pound Buckeye “pipe bender with feet” (h/t to NFL Writer Jarrett Bailey on my weekly show ‘The BigPlay Reflog Show’) Dawand Jones most likely will not be initially in there as Conklin’s replacement. This is due to an up-and-down preseason and lingering concerns over Jones’s run blocking.

With Nsekhe coming in midweek, it will be interesting to see how he picks up the offense and whether the unit can continue to give Watson time in the pocket and give Chubb some seams to run through. We have seen in the past where the loss of one player along the line can cause a negative network effect on the rest of the line. Hopefully they can continue to control the front despite Conklin’s absence.

Of course, all the talk has been on the performance of Deshaun Watson in week one as he looked confused at times in the pocket and missed some wide open receivers. Like Joe Burrow, Watson was dealing with rain, and I think nationally most folks are underappreciating that. It was a constant barrage all afternoon and it made the ball tough to grip. This doesn’t make up for the poor decision making, but it certainly can have some ripple effects on the rest of his game.

The positive was that he displayed some of his running ability and it was effective. Even if he is not totally locked in with his receiving core right now, he can use his legs to get positive yards, registering 45 yards and a TD on the ground in week 1. Nick Chubb also caught four balls out of the backfield further expanding his weapons artillery and making it harder for the defense to simply sit on mid-range passes.


Hey — I got all the way to the corner before even mentioning our kicking game! That feels like a huge win.

Dustin Hopkins was 3-of-3 on field goals and 1-of-1 on extra points. None of them shaky. Each met with an exuberant cheer from the very relieved stadium (some might call it a Bronx cheer, but the tenor was different than the occasional sarcastic ovations last year for Cade York). I look for DHop to continue to make the kicking game a non-issue this week and make Browns fans extraordinarily happy in the process.

Overall, I love what the Browns were able to do in week one against the Bengals, essentially making them raise the white flag and pull their starters midway through the fourth quarter

I have a feeling this year is going to be a year of firsts for the Cleveland Browns. This is their first time favored since 1989 at Pittsburgh, and now — the first time starting 2-0 since 1993.

Prediction: Browns 27-21

Photo credit: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire

Chris McNeil is the brains behind the infamous Cleveland Browns 0-16 parade. A viral internet personality, McNeil’s audience of over 500,000 social media followers (@reflog_18) hangs onto his every word and every meme about the Browns, Guardians, Cavs, Buckeyes, and all Ohio sports. He is a co-host on the Big Play Reflog Show on

DAWG DAYS: The Three Deep in Week 2 — Browns vs. Steelers | Tipico
DAWG DAYS: The Three Deep in Week 2 — Browns vs. Steelers | Tipico

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