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Cleveland Browns defense: 3 keys for success going into the Thursday night showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers

What must change with the Browns defense before their Thursday night matchup with the Steelers?

CLEVELAND — Boy oh boy, where to begin with the Cleveland Browns' defense this week?

Once again, blown assignments and lack of communication and leadership lead to a historic collapse. There is plenty of blame to go around, and it sure has been going around among Browns fans, players and coaches.

Myles Garrett called out the fans for booing players as they left the field after the loss in a postgame press conference on Sunday. Denzel Ward told reporters that the broken coverage leading to the long TD pass to Corey Davis to jumpstart the Jets comeback "wasn't his coverage" before saying he would take the blame on the play. 

"Fire Joe Woods" was trending on Twitter as Browns fans tried to come to grips with what they had witnessed after many left the stadium early up 13 with less than two minutes to play.

The events that took place within the final two-minute warning led to the worst collapse in recent NFL history... since the last historic collapse the Browns suffered against the Chicago Bears in Week 9 of the 2001 season.

Where does the defense go from here? How do they regroup on a short week against a division rival?

Here are three keys to success for the Browns defense against the Pittsburg Steelers:

1. Communication, Communication, Communication

Maybe the most obvious of the keys but undoubtedly the most important. The Browns will going into Thursday's game without one of the most important players on their defense after Jadeveon Clowney left Sunday's game with an ankle injury (he has been ruled out for Thursday). News broke Tuesday that Myles Garrett was dealing with a neck injury that forced him out of Tuesday's practice, although the club has since confirmed he is expected to be available Thursday night.

Losing even one pass rusher could spell disaster if the secondary doesn't get on the same page, even against a struggling Mitch Trubisky leading the Steelers' offense. Thirty-seven-year-old Joe Flacco hadn't won a game in the NFL since 2019 and received boo birds of his own from the hometown Jets crowd in Week 1. They were throwing roses at his feet after what the Browns' defense allowed him to do on Sunday.

There is too much talent in the secondary for them to perform this way. Maybe our expectations were too high when they were anointed the next top five defense in the NFL, but it wasn't because of hope alone. There was good reason to believe in a defense lead by two Pro Bowlers and a host of young talent on the rise around them.

There are plenty of outlets like PFF that will point to individual Browns defenders playing extremely well in Sunday's game. JOK, Anthony Walker, and Jadeveon Clowney all had moments of brilliance, but it's amazing how communication breakdowns and big plays can spoil what would have otherwise been positive takeaways from the organization's first 2-0 start since 1993.

2. Block out external noise

What's done is done. The good news in all of the negative press and reaction to the blown coverages and miscommunication is that the problems are absolutely able to be fixed. It's a quick turnaround this week, which may prove to be exactly what they need.

No time to rest on their laurels; they will have had three days to get things right. The defense even held a players-only meeting at some point in the days following the Jets loss to get on the same page. 

RELATED: Browns defense holds players-only meeting following loss to New York Jets

This unit came together during offseason programs and minicamps. They came together for training camp, all of that valuable time used to either learn the system or become more comfortable with their role in it. Can they fix issues they seemingly weren't able to come together on in months of preseason preparation? We can only hope this meeting is a meaningful turning point for them as a group.

3. (Finally a positive) Continue to stifle the opponent's rushing attack

Lost in the controversy is the fact that the Browns defense has held the Panthers and Jets' running games in check through the first two weeks of the season. They held one of the most talented backs in the league, Christian McCaffrey, to just 33 yards on the ground, 54 total for the entire Panthers offense.

Similarly, they held the Jets to under 100 yards rushing, with the tandem of Breece Hall and Michael Carter combining for 73 yards.

Steelers fans have already begun the chants for rookie QB Kenny Pickett as Mitch Trubisky has not started his redemption arc on a great note. Trubisky has failed to throw for over 200 yards in each of his first two starts and is completing less than 60% of his passes.

Another would be focal point of the Steelers offense turns to the talented second-year RB Najee Harris. Harris impressed in his rookie year, starting all 17 games for the Steelers and rushing for 1,200 yards while adding another 467 in receptions. So far, it's been a tale of two seasons for Harris and the struggling Steelers' offense: Through two weeks, Harris has only rushed for 72 yards on 25 carries for a paltry 2.9 yards per attempt.

The Browns dared Joe Flacco to beat them on Sunday and it blew up in their face. However, the gameplan shouldn't change: Keep the Steelers offense one-dimensional and dare Mitch Trubisky to make enough plays to beat you. 

Should be a winning formula if they are able to fix their broken coverage issues.

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