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Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: Preview and Pick
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: Preview and Pick
The Cleveland Browns had a chance to take control of the AFC North with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals but they stumbled badly after starting the game off with a big lead. Now they will host the surging Pittsburgh Steelers who are looking to make a late run to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Browns listed as (-2.5) point favorites. The public has bailed on the Browns and they are favoring the Steelers in this game. The early betting returns from sports betting consensus shows that over 78 percent of the money coming in is on the Steelers. Due to this influx of cash the line has moved and can now be found at (-2) still in favor of the Browns. Check for the latest point spread at your favorite top rated online sportsbook when the games gets closer to kick off.
It could be argued that the Browns should have won the game against the Benagls. In the second quarter the Bengals had the ball for 3:42. The Browns had it for 11:18. Cincinnati scored 31 points, the Browns 0. That's what happens when a punt is blocked, another tipped, and the offense commits two turnovers. Those four plays were the difference between a close game and a 21-point loss. It might mean nothing because the Browns fell behind in the second quarter and had to throw a lot (Jason Campbell threw 56 passes). But Chris Ogbonnaya was on the field for 46 plays and Willis McGahee was on the field for just 13. Ogonnaya also was the Browns' leading rusher in yards and attempts. The Browns won’t give up on McGahee, but they might be moving more toward Ogbonnaya. They will need to run the rock if they hope to beat the Steelers.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal that there is Steeler dominance in this series. Pittsburgh is 10-2 straight up in its last 12 games when playing on the road against Cleveland and they are17-2 straight up in its last 19 games when playing Cleveland overall. Pittsburgh is 1-5 against the spread (ATS) in its last 6 games on the road and 4-9-1 straight up in its last 14 games. The total has gone under in 12 of Cleveland's last 18 games at home and the Browns are 1-3-1 straight up in its last 5 games.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Two division rivals meet next Sunday. Both teams have the same record — four wins, six losses.
As of Monday, the home team is favored at multiple Nevada sportsbooks, according to “The Linemakers” of Sporting News.
Not a big deal, and not especially surprising, right?
Well, when the two teams in question are the Browns and Steelers — and Cleveland is the favored team — well, then it’s kind of interesting.
After all, the Browns have not been favored against the Steelers in 10 years, according to data from Marc Lawrence’s 2013 College and Pro Football Stat and Log Book, a point spread archive. The Steelers were last underdogs to the Browns on November 23, 2003, when Pittsburgh, a three-point underdog, prevailed 13-6 in Cleveland.
In short, if the Browns close as favorites this Sunday, 10 years and one day will have passed since the last time Cleveland wasn’t an underdog to Pittsburgh.
Also, it would mark only the second time the Browns have been favored against the Steelers since returning to NFL play in 1999, according to data from the Jim Feist point spread archives, which covers years 1999-2002 for our purposes.
Paul Kruger and Davone Bess said they believe in the resiliency of the Cleveland Browns as they look to bounce back from Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Disappointing” and “frustrating” were the words Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger used to describe Sunday’s 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
And yet, despite the loss, the first-year Brown said the team will be ready to bounce back from the defeat and ready themselves for the final six games of the regular season.
“It’s a competitive group, and we have an extremely large amount of potential,” Kruger said. “It’s just putting it together, being disciplined. Those are really the teams that play well and play consistently well in this league, teams that can minimize the mistakes, keep momentum in their court. I think we’re doing a good job.
“We’ve just got to do it more often, more consistently. This is going to be a really good team. We have an extreme amount of potential. It’s just putting it together, being consistent. We’ve been in every game we’ve played in, so to give ourselves opportunities to win, me personally, it’s going to be doing more, working harder out here, finding ways to create turnovers, give our offense more opportunities. If we put it together the way we can, I know we’ll be in good shape.”
Kruger said he believes in his teammates because the Browns show the comeback ability “every week,” regardless of the outcome of the previous game.
“Whether you win or lose, you’ve got to stay even keel and come to work,” Kruger said. “We still have some things that we’re playing for ahead of us. For us, it’s just going to be about preparing and doing what we need to do to beat Pittsburgh. I think the coaches do a great job of keeping us focused on what we’re doing.”
Much like Kruger, first-year Browns wide receiver Davone Bess said he believes in the comeback ability of the players within the locker room.
“Guys have the resiliency to bounce back and guys come to work,” Bess said. “We’ll come to work Wednesday ready to go for the Steelers. We took steps backwards, but for us, we got better watching the tape. Now, it’s going to take us to another level. That’s our mindset. It’s behind us. We’ve just got to move forward and stay positive.
“That’s the hardest thing to get over, knowing that you had an opportunity, especially being able to play for something this late in the year. It’s everything. We’ve got to be able to capitalize, finish, got to be able to score in the red zone when you get down there. You’ve got to score touchdowns, turn field goals into touchdowns.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski is sticking with Jason Campbell as his starting quarterback when the Cleveland Browns (4-6) try to get back on the winning track Sunday in a home game against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6).
Campbell threw three interceptions and missed several open receivers in a 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, and the Browns have now lost four of their last five games. Campbell was the starter in two of the losses, though he played much better in Kansas City than in Cincinnati. He did not throw a pick in the 23-17 loss to the Chiefs.
"You're not always going to play great every game," Chudzinski said. "The three games that Jason's played have been against three very good defenses. I thought he played particularly well the other two games. He's the first one to say he needs to do better. As I've said many times before, the key to quarterback and that position is how guys bounce back when they're having some adversity or don't play as well as they would have liked."
Campbell suffered bruised ribs playing against the Ravens on Nov. 3. The Browns had their bye the next week.
Campbell told Chudzinski his ribs were fine, but after the Cincinnati game Campbell said, "I can't comment on that" when asked whether the injury affected him. Chudzinski has instructed players not to comment on injuries, so that could be the basis for Campbell's comment, but he did not evade the Bengals rush as well as he did the rush of the Chiefs or the Bengals.
On Wednesday, Campbell said he is not thinking about the injury as he prepares for the Steelers.
"That's in my rearview mirror," Campbell said. "I try not to think about it. If you're on the field, you're healthy enough to play. That's how I look at it. I'm on the field, so I'm healthy enough to play. That's why I have to go out and have fun and enjoy the game."
The Browns fell 2 1/2 games behind the Bengals in the AFC North, but along with the Steelers are chasing the second wild card spot. Either the Chiefs or Denver Broncos, both 9-1, seem to have a lock on the first wild card spot, but six teams in the conference are 4-6, including the Steelers. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are 5-5. The Dolphins beat the Browns in the season opener.
The Browns have had very little success beating the Steelers over the years. Left outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed with the Browns as a free agent after four years with the Ravens, has a plan for Sunday, though it admittedly isn't a secret plan.
"In my mind, it's just getting to No. 7," Kruger said. "He's really what makes it work, and he's a talented guy. He can extend plays and do all the good things. They have some really good receivers and a quarterback who can find ways to win. So I really think we've got to do is affect him."
No. 7 is Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes to lead the Steelers past the Detroit Lions, 37-27, last week.
The Browns rank fifth in the league defensively, but they have given up 14 passing touchdowns in the past five games, which is one reason they lost four of them. Most of the damage was inflicted by superior quarterbacks - four touchdown passes by the Lions' Matthew Stafford and three by the Packers' Aaron Rodgers. Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes for the Bengals last week.
Yes, this is a big game for the Browns, and it's great that Rob Chudzinski has said so.
"A little extra highlight when it's Pittsburgh," said the Browns coach.
I like that.
Make Sunday's game with the Steelers special. Make it matter.
So what if both teams are 4-6.
It's very possible that the Browns may actually be a franchise on the way up -- and the Steelers could possibly be stumbling.
I'll never say Pittsburgh is down. I'll never count out the Steelers. Not after how they have dominated the Browns for so long.
But I will say that Pat Shurmur's Browns beat them (20-14) last season.
In 2009, Eric Mangini's Browns beat the Steelers in a near-blizzard (13-6), but that's it.
Make it 3-17 vs. Pittsburgh in the last 10 years.
But the Steelers slipped to 8-8 last season. They are 4-6 now. Their offensive and defensive lines are no longer dominating.
The Steelers are vulnerable.
I know, they still have Ben Roethlisberger.
And I know, Roethlisberger is 15-1 vs. Browns.
And Roethlisberger is hot, having thrown for nine touchdowns in his last three games. He comes to town as the current AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
And after an 0-4 start, the Steelers are 4-2.
Meanwhile, the Browns have lost 4-of-5.
It doesn't feel quite that dismal because the one victory was over Baltimore (24-18 on Nov. 3). That broke a 12-game losing streak to the Ravens.
And Jason Campbell was honored as the AFC Offensive player of the week for completing 23-of-35 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens.
Here's the deal …
The Browns beat Cincinnati in front of the home fans.
The Browns beat Baltimore in front of the home fans.
The last time the Browns were an even 3-3 in their division was 2007. They now are 2-2 in the AFC North with two games left with the Steelers.
Chudzinski and his coaching staff desperately want the Browns to become a factor in the division, to quit being what he called "the little brother."
The rookie head coach has talked more about winning in the AFC North than any other Browns coach since the franchise returned in 1999. Having grown up a Browns fan and having coached here twice before, he knows what these games mean.
I’ve talked a lot about that (to the players)," said Chudzinski. "I think they can tell that this is a rivalry and we’ll continue to educate them over the course of the week if they don’t understand that.”
Chudzinski wants the Browns to play as many significant games as possible. One reason is that it's easier to keep the players fully engaged in a season that isn't entirely hopeless. But just as important, he believes the Browns will soon be a contender -- and every game will have playoff significance.
And he wants them to learn how to approach those games.
Clearly, the 41-20 loss at Cincinnati last week revealed the Browns need work when it comes to "big games," especially on the road. Special teams broke down. The defense didn't record a single sack. The offense was generally a disaster.
Campbell was 26-of-57 passing for 247 yards, three interceptions and one touchdown.
Ben Roethlisberger played his best game of the season last week, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the playoff hunt after a slow start.
Now Roethlisberger will look to build off that performance Sunday when the Steelers travel to face their AFC North rival Cleveland Browns, whom he has dominated throughout his career.
Last Sunday, Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns without an interception as the Steelers (4-6) defeated the Lions 37-27. The win was the team's fourth in six games after starting 0-4. For his performance, Roethlisberger was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
''We've got to keep this thing going,'' said Pittsburgh wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who caught the last of Roethlisberger's four touchdowns, a 20-yard strike in the fourth quarter. ''Our margin for error is nonexistent right now. We feel good about this team and we're going to keep grinding.''
Currently tied with the Browns (4-6) in both the division race and the wild-card standings, the Steelers need their quarterback to deliver again. With that the case, there is no team Roethlisberger would rather face than Cleveland. The Steelers are 15-1 all-time against their longtime rivals when Roethlisberger is under center, with the quarterback completing 62.5 percent of his passes. Roethlisberger hasn't thrown an interception at FirstEnergy Stadium since 2006.
The Browns will try to counter Roethlisberger with one of the NFL's top defenses. Opponents average just 4.45 yards per play against Cleveland, the lowest in the league, and the cornerback tandem of Joe Haden and Buster Skrine lead a secondary that is among the league's best at taking away deep passes.
For the season, the Browns have allowed just 25 passes of 20 yards or longer, fourth-fewest in the NFL. On the other side, Roethlisberger's strong arm and ability to improvise have helped the Steelers rank third in the league with 46 completions of at least 20 yards.
On Sunday, something has to give.
"We have an extreme amount of potential," said Browns linebacker Paul Kruger. "For us, it's just going to be about preparing and doing what we need to do to beat Pittsburgh. I think the coaches do a great job of keeping us focused on what we're doing."
The matchup against the Steelers will the Browns' third straight within the AFC North. Last Sunday, Cleveland fell to the division-leading Bengals 41-20 one week after it beat the Ravens.
"It was an important opportunity for us, and we didn't play the way we were capable of playing and weren't able to get it done at the end of the day," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of the loss. "I think that it's important that we learn from this, and when we have an opportunity again, which we will in the future, this experience is something that guys will be able to draw from and that'll help us."
Against Pittsburgh, Jason Campbell will be making his fourth consecutive start for the Browns at quarterback, and he should be helped by the friendly confines of the home field. In his two starts on the road this season - both losses - Campbell has thrown as many interceptions (3) as touchdowns, and has a passer rating of 68.3. In his lone home start, the 24-18 win versus Baltimore on Nov. 3, Campbell threw three touchdowns without an interception and finished with a rating of 116.6.
"The key to the quarterback is how guys bounce back when they're having some adversity or don't play as well as they would've liked," Chudzinski said. "Generally, teams are better at home (with) the energy, the crowd. I think the fans have been awesome, and our team feeds off that energy. You have to be able to win in both places, whether it's on the road or at home and we need to do a better job on the road."
Both teams are in the thick of the wild-card chase since nine AFC teams enter play this weekend with either four or five wins, and the New York Jets hold the second and final wild-card spot at 5-5.
"This is a tight race," Steelers cornerback Will Allen said. "It's a three-way tie for second in our division. Hopefully we can get another win, get three in a row. It's a tough task.
"Cleveland is a good team. They always play us hard."
Struggles on the road have contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers having to chase a playoff spot.
The Steelers look to turn things around this Sunday in Cleveland, where they aim for a third straight victory in a matchup versus the Browns.
This meeting pits two of the three 4-6 teams in the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens are the other and all three squads are chasing the idle 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals for the top spot in the division.
All three clubs are also in the hunt for the extra playoff spots, with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins tied for the AFC's second wild card spot with 5-5 records.
Pittsburgh has won four of six since an 0-4 start and appeared to make a statement of remaining competitive with last weekend's 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers were able to overcome a 27-point second quarter by the Lions as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards with four touchdowns. Two of those scoring throws came in the fourth quarter to Will Johnson and Jerricho Cotchery.
Roethlisberger's performance capped a week that saw reports surface of his possible unhappiness in the Steel City. It didn't show on Sunday as he rallied the Steelers from a 27-20 halftime deficit.
"He had a good week's preparation. We knew we were playing a good football team, a team that's capable of ringing up the scoreboard," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "We realized that would require us to do similar things. I just thought he did a nice job administering the offense."
Pittsburgh will play its next two on the road as it will visit Baltimore on Thanksgiving. The Steelers are just 1-4 as the road team this season, but have won 11 of 14 games at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Steelers are 24-5 against the Browns in the regular season since 1999, winning five of the past six encounters.
Cleveland will play two straight and three of its next four at home looking to shake off last Sunday's 41-20 defeat at the hands of Cincinnati. The Browns were undone by a 31-point second quarter by the Bengals, who got two touchdown passes, a field goal, a blocked punt return for a touchdown and a fumble returned to the end zone in the frame.
"It was a disappointing game for us today. We were not able to overcome the second quarter, and the game got away from us at that point," said Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski.
Jason Campbell connected on 27-of-56 passes for 248 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for the Browns (4-6), who have lost four of five. Wide receiver Josh Gordon made five catches for 125 yards, including a career-long 74 yard score.
A seemingly-inspired Roethlisberger helped the Steelers post 358 net passing yards versus the Lions, marking the first time dating back to 1970 that Pittsburgh has had four games of at least 350 net passing yards in the same season.
Overall, the Steelers rank seventh in football with 266.7 passing yards per game, but are just 20th with 21.6 points per game.
That number could go up if Roethlisberger stays hot. He logged his seventh career game of at least four TD passes and his 2,901 passing yards on the season are the most by a Steeler through the club's first 10 games dating back to 1960. He surpassed his own previous mark of 2,877 set in 2011.
Big Ben also moved to within five touchdown passes of passing Terry Bradshaw (212) for the most in club history.
"We are out to play every game like it is the most important. I told you guys a while ago that I wasn't going to quit," Roethlisberger said following the Lions game. "There was no quit in me or from anyone on the team today. I'm just proud of the way everybody played."
Roethlisberger could see guard Ramon Foster return to action this weekend after he missed the most recent contest with an ankle injury and continues to look towards the direction of Antonio Brown.
The wideout caught TD passes of 34 and 47 yards from Roethlisberger in the first quarter against Detroit, ending with seven receptions for 147 yards. His 74 catches on the season are a career high and he is on the verge of joining Yancey Thigpen, John Stallworth and Hines Ward as the only Steelers to log 80 catches in a season.
Standing in Brown's way is Cleveland defensive back Joe Haden, who is coming off his first career two-interception game. He took one of those picks 29 yards for his first career touchdown and he has logged three interceptions in the past two games.
Not only did Haden come up with takeaways for Cleveland's fourth-ranked pass defense (207.5 YPG), but he held talented Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green to just two catches for seven yards.
"He's playing at a high level. He had a great game," said Chudzinski of Haden. "He's been impressive in how he responds to all of the challenges that he's had throughout the course of the season and has really stepped up as a leader as well. You can see our team plays and our defense plays well, particularly, when he's playing at that level."
Cleveland has its own big threat at the wide receiver position in Gordon, who has registered all nine of his career touchdown catches from 20-plus yards. He is also the first Cleveland receiver to have four 100-yard games in a season since Braylon Edwards in 2007.
Limited to just eight games this season due to a suspension, Gordon leads the Browns with 751 receiving yards and ranks fourth in the NFL with an average of 93.9 per game.
Pittsburgh's defense could have end Brett Keisel and linebacker LaMarr Woodley back for this game. In Woodley's place, Jason Worilds has posted three sacks in his last three games.
Steelers safety Will Allen had an interception and forced fumble last weekend, while Troy Polamalu has eight career interceptions versus the Browns.