Browns vs. Steelers: Expert Pick and Prediction – September 18, 2023
BROWNS VS. STEELERS: EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – September 18, 2023 — A week ago, the Cleveland Browns started their season with the opponent they needed: Cincinnati at home. For whatever reason, the Browns have dominated the Bengals in Cleveland, winning six straight over their Ohio rivals at home.
It’s been the exact opposite situation facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Since the Steelers opened Heinz Field in 2000, the Browns are 1-21 in Pittsburgh in the regular season. Outside of their playoff win in 2021, they’ve lost 19 straight to the Steelers in Pennsylvania. That includes last season, when Cleveland faded in the second half and ended up with a 28-14 loss to Pittsburgh.
That might be helpful for Kenny Pickett to point to after the quarterback had a nightmare start to his season. Pickett looked awful against San Francisco last week, and while the 49ers will do that to a lot of teams, the lack of progression from last season was alarming. Pickett went 7-2 as a rookie, but that was because of the Steelers’ defense more than him. That included last year’s win over the Browns, as Pickett didn’t play particularly well in the season finale either.
(1-0 SU, 1-0-0 ATS)
(0-1 SU, 0-1-0 ATS)
When: Monday, September 18th at 8:20 p.m. EDT
Where: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh
Public Bets: 57% on Cleveland
Public Money: 57% on Pittsburgh
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of September 17th, 2023
For Cleveland, the magic number is 21. Over the past five seasons, when the Browns get to 21 against the Steelers, they’re 4-0-1. When they don’t, they’re 0-6. Part of that has been the Steelers’ defense, which has needed to make play after play in this series to keep the wins coming.
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Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t just know how to beat the Browns in Pittsburgh; he also knows how to cover the number. The Steelers’ coach has never lost to Cleveland in the regular season, boasting a 16-0 SU mark. He’s 10-5-1 ATS, and four of the Steelers’ past five wins in the rivalry have come by double digits.
Pickett didn’t look good at all against the 49ers’ blitz last week, which means he’ll surely see it again this week. Jim Schwartz has always been a fan of the blitz, and he successfully shut Joe Burrow down last week by sending pressure early and often. With Pickett struggling badly against the blitz, there’s no reason for the Browns to change what worked for them.
Either Deshaun Watson has to be better than he was last season against the Steelers, or the Browns will need to lean on Nick Chubb. Cleveland should probably consider doing the latter anyway, given that Chubb nearly managed six yards a carry last year in Pittsburgh.
He got 18 carries against Cincinnati last week and responded with 106 rushing yards. If the Browns can keep feeding him, they’ll likely control the game.
Showers will happen early in the day in Pittsburgh, but by the time the teams kick off, the rain should be out of the way. Temperatures will sit in the 50s by kickoff, which means football weather.
The Browns’ defense looked very good last week, and the Steelers’ passing attack didn’t look good at all. I don’t want to overreact to Week 1, but Pickett has shown more bad than good in his brief NFL career and did not handle a good blitz last week.
With Myles Garrett coming for him and Pickett already showing he couldn’t handle Cleveland’s defense in his first opportunity, I don’t see any reason to change things up here.