Steelers vs. Browns Odds & Picks: Ride With Cleveland To Cover Sunday’s Spread
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr.
Steelers vs. Browns Odds
The AFC North is arguably the best division in football through five weeks, with the Steelers, Browns and Ravens all holding win percentages of .800 or better.
Pittsburgh sits atop the AFC North as the division’s only undefeated team at 4-0 record. The Browns haven’t been slouches themselves, turning a new leaf under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski and winning four straight games on their way to a 4-1 record — their best start since 1994.
This Sunday, the Steelers host the Browns at Heinz Field, where Pittsburgh has won every matchup between the two since 2003. The last time Cleveland won in Pittsburgh, Tim Couch was their starting quarterback and Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t been drafted yet.
Can Cleveland end their 17-year losing streak in Pittsburgh, or will the the Steelers continue their home dominance over their division rival?
Let’s find out.
The 2020 Browns are a much different team than the ones the Steelers are used to dominating. Stefanski has pushed all the right buttons so far, and despite facing the hardest schedule of opposing defenses through the first five games of the season, the Browns are still scoring 31.6 points per game. That average ranks fourth behind the Packers, Seahawks and Cowboys.
Even with the absence of running back Nick Chubb, the rushing duo of Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. The Browns have the NFL’s best rushing attack, averaging 188 rushing yards per game on 5.5 yards per carry with a success rate of 55% that ranks seventh in the league.
Cleveland is also first in explosive run plays (per Sharp Football Stats), with 33 rushes of 20 or more yards this season. To provide some context on how good that is, the Vikings are second with just 25 such rushing plays — that’s a 25% difference.
The Browns will face a Steelers defense that ranks first in rushing success rate defense and is holding teams to just 3.3 yards per carry. If there’s an interesting caveat in this matchup, it’s that the Steelers have also faced the league’s second-easiest schedule of opposing rushing offenses in the Giants, Broncos, Texans and Eagles.
As a whole, the Steelers haven’t faced an offense as good as the Browns. Cleveland wants to establish the run early, but its pass offense is also dangerous. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have to be licking their chops after the Steelers allowed the Eagles’ Travis Fulgham to haul in 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown last week.
The biggest deciding factor in this game is if the Browns’ stellar offensive line, which ranks No. 1 in adjusted line yards and 10th in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders) while allowing just seven sacks all season (fifth in the NFL), can hold up against the Steelers’ pass rush. Cleveland’s play against Washington and Indianapolis, which both have strong defensive lines, are encouraging signs for how the Browns will fare against this Steelers pass rush. If Cleveland can protect Baker Mayfield, who suffered a rib injury in Week 5 against Indianapolis, its offense should be able to put up points.
Much will be made of a possible Myles Garrett revenge game, and we could see a big game from him with the Steelers missing guard David DeCastro due to an abdominal injury. The Browns’ secondary is dealing with issues given the absence of cornerback Greedy Williams, who was placed on injured reserve this week due to a shoulder injury.
However, the Browns have limited the amount of explosive plays from their opposition, ranking third in explosive run rate and fourth in explosive pass rate. Turnover luck isn’t predictive but the Browns have also lived off turnovers, generating a league-leading 12 this season.
Based on how he’s played this season, it’s clear that beating Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh for the first time won’t be an easy task for the Browns.
Roethlisberger has been rejuvenated in 2020, ranking sixth in quarterback rating (110.4), 10th in completion percentage (69.9) and seventh in touchdowns (10) while throwing just one interception. He’s just 25th in intended air yards at 6.8, but with a reliable veteran in JuJu Smith-Schuster and the emergence of Chase Claypool — who has done major damage after the catch — it hasn’t mattered much.
Claypool was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching seven passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns from Roethlisberger while rushing for another in Week 5. Despite this, the Steelers are still just 23rd in offensive success rate and 24th in explosive play rate, with 8% of their plays going for 20 yards or more.
Pittsburgh heads into this game without DeCastro on the line and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (back). Center Maurkice Pouncey has been banged up but is expected to play after missing practice most of the week. This is the second consecutive week that Pittsburgh will face an elite pass rush, and we could see a carryover effect.
The Steelers have the best defensive line in football, leading the league in pressure rate (41.2%) and sacks (20), but it’s worth noting that the Steelers have faced the easiest schedule of opposing offenses and are still just 24th in explosive pass defense, allowing 10% of pass plays to go for 20 or more yards.
The Steelers gave up 29 points to the Eagles last week and allowed Carson Wentz to throw for 276 yards and two touchdowns with mostly back-up receivers. That performance also shines a light on how Pittsburgh’s defense struggles to get off the field on third down, as the Steelers rank 27th in the league by allowing opponents to convert 50% of the time.
This game comes down to if the Browns’ offensive line can consistently protect Mayfield against the Steelers’ pass rush. I think they can, and thus I like the Browns to end their horrid streak at Heinz Field.
Although the Steelers are 4-0, their previous opponents have a combined record of 3-15-1 with a -130 point differential.
Yes, you read that correctly. Minus 130.
Styles make fights, but what does it say about the Steelers if they allowed teams of this quality to remain competitive? The Giants had their chances in Week 1, and then a Jeff Driskel-led Broncos team had an opportunity to win on the final drive of the game. The Texans held a second-half lead, and the Eagles were a missed field goal away from taking the lead with three minutes left in the game.
My model makes has this game at Steelers -2.27, and while it feels like oddsmakers are taking a clear position on Pittsburgh giving out the three and the hook, I’m happy to oblige with a position of my own: The Browns have been underdogs in each of their last two games against the Cowboys and Colts and after backing them the past two weeks, it’s clear they’re not being respected enough.
Sprinkle a small percentage of your wager on the moneyline because the Dawg Pound could bark loudly in this spot.
PICK: Browns +3.5, Browns ML +175