Preview and pick for Steelers at Browns
No AFC rivalry is older than the one between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have met 136 times since 1950. The Browns won 31 of the first 40 meetings, but since then, it has largely been the Steelers dominating the rivalry. Since 2010, the Steelers have won 17 of the 21 meetings, with the Browns winning three and one ending in a tie.
The Steelers (12-3) clinched the AFC North last week, coming back from a 17-point deficit to beat Indianapolis, while the Browns (10-5) lost to the New York Jets, having difficulty getting their offense going in the absence of four wide receivers due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
The Browns need to win in order to get a playoff spot, but can they beat one of their nemeses? Don’t miss our preview.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
When: Sunday, January 3, 2020, 1:00 pm ET
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
Radio: WBGG 970 AM Pittsburgh / ESPN 850 AM Cleveland
JAZZ Sports Odds: Browns -10 / Total 42.5
Why the Steelers Will Win
The Steelers finally looked like the team that won 11 in a row in the second half against Indianapolis, turning a 24-7 deficit into a 28-24 win. What was the difference? Ben Roethlisberger finally decided to start throwing the ball down the field, which opened up things for the running game and the play-action scheme. That is what the Steelers were missing during their three-game losing streak. If the Steelers can keep that up in the playoffs, they are a dangerous team.
Pittsburgh has only covered once in their last five games, but the Browns have only covered once in their last eight games against AFC opponents. The home team has covered in five straight games in this rivalry. However, the Browns opened as a seven-point favorite, which seems high given their difficulties in clutch situations – and against the Steelers (as well as the Ravens).
Why the Browns Will Win
The Browns have prevailed in five of their last seven home games, and Baker Mayfield seemed to have found his stride before that debacle against the Jets. He has thrown for 10 touchdown passes in his last five games, and he will have Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones back in the lineup this week. Mayfield has fumbled at crucial times this season, including on a fourth-down quarterback sneak against the Jets that proved devastating.
The Browns' defense has improved but still permits 26.5 points and 356.1 yards per week. Myles Garrett is having a monster season with a dozen sacks, and B.J. Goodson leads the team with 91 tackles. If you like the Browns here, you see the Steelers resting a lot of their starters (Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback in place of Ben Roethlisberger, for example) and the Browns playing with motivation.
The Final Word
We think the Browns can find a way to eke out a win and get into the playoffs, bouncing back from that loss to the Jets. Keep an eye on that line, though, as I expect it to slide down from seven points as bettors understand that the Browns have not yet learned what to do with prosperity.