When the Cleveland Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, punching their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, they ended up setting themselves up for a Wild Card matchup with… the Steelers.
Yes, this will be the third time the divisional foes will meet this season and it should look a lot different than their Week 17 matchup.
The game will take place on Sunday at 8:15 pm at Heinz Field.
For starters, the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt should be back in the lineup, making things a bit more difficult for the Browns.
The Steelers are the current favorites to win the Wild Card game, according to BetOnline. Their moneyline sits -220 and their point spread is -4.0. The Browns moneyline for the game is +190 and the over/under for the game is 47.
See BetOnline for updated lines and odds.
Can the Browns beat the Steelers again?
Back when the Steelers were 11-0, it would’ve been unfathomable to imagine a world where they could lose to the Browns, but they’ve fallen off over the last few weeks, leaving the door open for Cleveland.
One of the main paths to victory for the Browns could lie in Baker Mayfield’s hands.
The third-year quarterback looked a lot better this season in comparison to last year as he threw for 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions as opposed to the 22-21 stat line he put last season. The only thing is that for every really good game Mayfield has had this season, he’s had a game or two where he’s looked mediocre. Hopefully, for the Browns, they get the good Mayfield this weekend.
Rookie coach Kevin Stefanski has already worked wonders with the Browns locker room this season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he got Mayfield in the proper headspace for Sunday.
Another key to winning the game would be if Myles Garrett continues to dominate the pass rush for the Browns. Garrett had 12.0 sacks on the season, with 18 QB hits and 10 tackles for losses. With Roethlisberger look far from his old self, Garrett getting at the veteran quarterback early and often could tilt the game in the Browns’ favor, especially if the Steelers continue to struggle in the running game.
Are the Steelers the real deal?
As mentioned before, there was a point in time that the Steelers were 11-0 on the season, but that seems like forever ago as they’ve lost four of their last five games since then. Plus their only win in that stretch came against the Indianapolis Colts, which they had to come back from a deficit late in the game to win.
Offensively, the Steelers have been relying on their passing game to put up points. The trio of Chase Claypool (873 yards, nine touchdowns), Diontae Johnson (923 yards, seven touchdowns), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (831 yards, nine touchdowns) did most of the Steelers’ scoring this season.
Overall, Steelers put up the 26th most total yards per game with 342.5, which is not something you’d expect from a 12-4 team. This could be the case mostly because they rank dead last in rushing yards per game with 84.4. If the Browns shut down Big Ben and the Steelers’ receivers, things could look bleak if they have to rely on their rushing game.
Thankfully, the Steelers have talent on the opposite side of the ball as well.
The Steelers were third for both yards (305.8) and points (19.5) allowed per game. T.J. Watt was a big part of this defensive performance, as he led the NFL in sacks with 15.0 and tackles for loss with 23. If Watt and the Steelers can keep this up and throw Mayfield off his game, they won’t need their offense as much.
Other noteworthy information
While their Week 17 matchup has been documented, the two teams also met in Week 6, where the Steelers dominated the Browns 38-7. Could this game be more indicative of things to come, as opposed to last week’s matchup that saw the Steelers bench some of their starters?
Another thing to keep an eye on is the fact that the Steelers have only scored more than 20 points twice since Week 12.
It also hasn’t happened since Week 10, but the Browns have had four games this season when they’ve scored 10 or fewer points.
With that being said, the Steelers and Browns rank 12th (26.0) and 14th (25.5) respectively in points scored per game this season, so it could be a closer offensive matchup than some think.