The Steelers’ season seemed doomed when Big Ben went down and they lost three straight games.
Losing to rivals, the New England Patriots in Week 1 wasn’t unexpected, but getting smashed 33-3 was. Then, getting edged out by both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers came as a shock to the system. In hindsight, the close loss to the 49ers with a newly-minted starting QB at the helm actually wasn’t so bad. As it turns out, the Niners might just be the best team in the league.
But since the early losing streak, things have gotten back to normal in Steeler Town. They’ve gon 4-1 up to Week 10, facing a tough NFC foe in the Los Angeles Rams. But Week 11 takes the Steelers back to AFC division play against the Cleveland Browns.
How they Match Up
You can never count out a division rival. However, the Browns have been one of the biggest disappointments this season – that is, if you had bought into all of the hype. I for one predicted a bit of a sophomore slump on the part of Baker Mayfield.
Despite the fact that the Browns entered their Week 10 matchup against Buffalo Bills at just 2 and 6, they are listed on the early NFL odds boards as 3 point home favorites. This number means that the bookmakers in Vegas believe these two teams are evenly matched on a neutral field. I say this because, in NFL games, the home team is typically awarded a field goal on the point spread.
As of Week 10, the Cleveland Browns are putting up 18 points per game at home, which is 1.33 points per game better on average than the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road – 16.67 points per game. The Steelers haven’t been able to get a running game going while on the highway. THey average just 78 yards per game on the ground as the visiting team, which is No. 30 in the league. On the flip side, the Browns put up 18 points per game while playing in Cleveland with Nick Chubb leading their No. 13 ranked rushing attack.
The biggest difference statistically speaking is the defenses. The Dogs are allowing 31.67 points per game. That number is bad enough for the No. 30 ranking in the NFL. The Steelers, on the other hand, play seven points better on that side of the ball. Up to Week 10, they’ve allowed 24.67 points per game. So if we were to look at this matchup through the law of averages, The Steelers would have a 5.67 point neutral field advantage. But giving the Browns three points for playing at FirstEnergy Stadium, that leaves the Steelers with a 2.67 point differential.
The Steelers road D is allowing opponents less than 100 rushing yards per game. So we should expect them to slow down the Dogs rushing attack. Especially since the Broncos held the Browns to just 90 yards. That said, Nick Chubb did put up 131 on his own against the Pats the previous week. The X-factor will be Kareem Hunt who is coming back into action in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills. He’s had nearly 350 days off, so, I wouldn’t put too much stock into his debut – for the Browns– performance. But the added dynamic of being able to one-two punch with Chubb and Hunt. It could definitely put their Top-10 road run D to the test.
Still, there is a long history of the Steelers smashing the Browns to bits, no matter what stadium they are playing in. Plus, the Browns are simply overrated this season. So, my prediction for this game is for the Pittsburgh Steelers to cover the point spread.