The Pittsburgh Steelers have long had the Cleveland Browns’ number. But as both teams prepare for the next rendition of this great NFL rivalry, Monday night in Pittsburgh, the Browns have a slight edge.
In the wake of some critical injuries on Pittsburgh’s sideline, the Browns have gone from a 1-point underdog to a 2-point favorite (-110) within the last week. Cleveland is also -125 to win outright, while Pittsburgh is +2 (-110) against the spread and +105 on the moneyline. Oddsmakers expect a low-scoring duel, as the projected total is currently sitting at 39 (-110 Over, -110 Under).
Is Cleveland worth backing? Read on as we break down the matchup in our Browns vs Steelers preview.
Date/Time: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: Acrisure Stadium; Pittsburgh
The Cleveland Browns are just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland has also lost 19 of its last 20 games straight up when playing on the road in Pittsburgh. The total has gone Over in four of the teams’ last six matchups. That’s important to remember when assessing the odds in our Browns vs Steelers preview.
Browns Trending Up
The Cleveland Browns weren’t necessarily bad on defense in 2022. They ranked in the top half of the NFL in yards allowed (331.2/game) and 20th in points allowed (22.4/game). But they weren’t great either. So, seeking to upgrade the unit, the Browns hired Jim Schwartz, one of the NFL’s top defensive coordinators.
So far, it’s paying off.
Cleveland shut down the Cincinnati Bengals 24-3 in their season opener as a 2-point underdog, sacking Joe Burrow — the NFL’s newest highest-paid player — twice and holding him to a career-low 82 yards on 14 of 31 passing. Myles Garrett, priced +800 to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, registered one of those sacks.
While Cincinnati (+125) came into the season favored to win the AFC North, the odds have already shifted. Cincinnati and Baltimore are now both +200, while the Browns, who were +380 in the preseason, are now a smidge behind at +225. The Browns are more of a longshot in the conference at +900.
Can Cleveland cash in on those odds? It hasn’t won a division title since 1989, culminating with the Browns losing the AFC Championship Game to Denver. They’ve made the playoffs just three times since then, most recently in 2020. So clearly, history isn’t on Cleveland’s side. But it does have a revamped defense and a potent rushing attack led by Nick Chubb, who is a +275 favorite to win the NFL rushing title. In that sense, anything is possible when it comes to the Cleveland Browns standings.
Trouble in the Steel City
The Pittsburgh Steelers are off to an ominous start, having lost 30-7 in Week 1. Pittsburgh, a 2.5-point underdog, fell behind 20-0 in the second quarter and finished with only 239 total yards.
Since then, concerns about Pittsburgh have only continued to grow. Diontae Johnson, the team’s leading receiver (86 catches for 882 yards) in 2022, is now sidelined with a hamstring injury. There’s no concrete timeline for his return — Johnson labeled himself “day-to-day” — but reports have indicated that he could miss multiple weeks. If Johnson is placed on IR, he will be sidelined for at least four games.
On top of that, Pittsburgh will also be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Cam Heyward for approximately eight weeks with a torn groin. Heyward led the Steelers with 14 tackles for loss in 2022 and was second with 10.5 sacks.
Losing both is an obvious blow to Pittsburgh, which is something to remember when evaluating our Browns vs Steelers preview. The Steelers went 9-8 last season, finishing .500 or better for the 19th straight season, but missed the playoffs. After dropping to 0-1, they’ve seen their odds of winning the AFC North drop from +500 to +750, well behind the rest of the division.
Those absences have only increased the pressure on 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett. He was intercepted twice by the 49ers but didn’t get much help, as he was sacked five times.
Handicapping the Game
Pittsburgh is 12-4-1 over its last 17 games against its AFC North rival. But is the tide beginning to turn? It certainly appears so. The Browns still a work in progress, and it’s best not to overreact to Week 1 in the NFL. But the Steelers have issues. Not only are they playing poorly, but they’re also getting hit hard by injuries. That’s a bad combination, especially early in the season.
At the moment, it’s hard to trust Pittsburgh. Thus, look for Cleveland to take care of business at home and cover the NFL odds this week.
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