Spread: Steelers +4 / Browns -4
Moneyline: Steelers +175 / Browns -200
Total: Over/Under 37.5.
Week 3 of the NFL kicks off with an AFC North Division showdown. The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns (1-1). Both teams are coming off home losses and looking to take 1st place in the division. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15p.m. eastern time at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
The calls for Kenny Pickett to start have already begun. This Steelers offense has scored just 37 points through their first 2 games and Mitchell Trubisky’s inability to push the ball down field is the reason why. Teams are loading the box and daring Mitch to take shots. Causing Najee Harris to get off to an abysmal start, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on 25 touches. 2nd round pick George Pickens has also been a non-factor, recording just 2 catches for 26 yards this season. Despite one of the most talented skill position groups in the NFL, this offense looks considerably worse than Big Ben’s last year.
In last weeks loss to the Browns, they mustered just 243 yards of total offense. Despite his loaded receiving core, Mitch threw just for 168 yards. They were given opportunities to come back with a pair of possessions down 3 in the 4th quarter, but Trubisky and co. went 3 and out both times. Another disappointing performance and this could be Mitch’s last start for Pittsburgh.
The defense has been good, the Steelers defense is always good, but the loss of T.J. Watt was evident last week. Pittsburgh failed to record a single sack despite the Patriots throwing the ball 35 times. Their rush defense also took a hit, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 24 attempts. They’ve only allowed 37 points through week 2 but have they’ve also faced struggling offenses.
Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The Browns pulled a Browns last week and managed to let the New York Jets (of all teams) overcome a 13-point deficit with under 2 minutes to go, the first team to do so in 21 years. Chubb could have gone down, they could have made that extra point, they could have recovered the onside kick, or the defense could have stopped Joe Flacco from throwing 2 touchdown passes in under a minute. But they didn’t, and the Browns took home one of the most embarrassing losses in the last 20 years.
The offense led by journeyman Jacoby Brissett has looked good, they scored 26 in their opener against the Panthers and 30 against the Jets. Brissett has completed 65.6% of his passes for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns. The ground game has been phenomenal, Nick Chubb has 228 yards rushing on just 39 attempts while Kareem Hunt has 104 yards on 24 attempts. They’re averaging 5.3 yards per carry right now. Amari Cooper had a nice day against New York, reeling in 9 of his 10 targets for 101 yards and a score. The Browns have the best offensive line in all of football and they’ll continue to lean on that week in and week out.
The Defense has failed to put teams away. Carolina scored 17 points in the 4th quarter in week 1 and so did the Jets during their miracle comeback in week 2. The pass rushing duo of Clowney and Garrett has been strong, they’ve combined for 4.5 sacks through their first 2 games, as a team they have 6. They’ve also allowed just 147 rushing yards total through the first two weeks of the season. Large reason why the Browns rank 3rd in time of possession this year. This could be one of the better defenses in football if they learn to close out games.
Cleveland Browns -4. This Steelers offense is just pitiful and the Browns rushing attack is too good. The Browns offensive line is going to wear on this Steelers front 7 as the game goes on and the Browns will pull away in the 2nd half. This is the #1 rushing attack in football going up against a Steelers front 7 that just gave up 4.9 yards per carry a week ago. With such poor offensive play the Steelers don’t hold onto the ball, they rank 29th in time of possession, contrary to the Browns ranking 3rd. Not only is this the best offensive line in football but the Steelers just lost their best defensive player in T.J. Watt. That neutralized their pass rush, as they didn’t record a single sack despite 35 drop backs from the Patriots last week. This Steelers offensive line has struggled, and it won’t get any easier against a Browns front 7 that’s compiled 6 sacks and given up just 147 rushing yards through 2 games. The Steelers offensive struggles will continue, and this Browns rushing attack will pound away. The bright side for Steelers fans is that this should force Tomlin to bench Mitchel Trubisky for Kenny Pickett in week 4.