The Week 11 game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers is one that will live in infamy. A 21-7 Cleveland win was overshadowed by a brawl late in the game that involved Browns defensive end Myles Garrett swinging a helmet at the head of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Now, just two weeks later, the Browns (5-6, third in AFC North) and Steelers (6-5, second in AFC North) will meet in Pittsburgh under very different circumstances. Garrett is serving his season-long suspension, and Rudolph has been replaced as the starting quarterback.
Here is a preview for Sunday’s matchup in Pittsburgh, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
The Browns are rolling, winners of three in a row including last week’s 41-point drubbing of the Dolphins. Cleveland has climbed up a little bit in several offensive statistics, ranking 15th with 354.2 total yards per game and 21st with 21.2 points. The Browns are also 10th in rushing yards, averaging 124.2 per game.
On defense, Cleveland has been fairly average, allowing 22.9 points per game (18th) and 338.5 yards (14th). But the Browns have been excellent against the pass, allowing the sixth-fewest yards in the air per game, and also carry the league’s fourth-best third-down prevention percentage.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have used three different quarterbacks this season and dealt with a myriad of injuries to their best playmakers, and it shows. Pittsburgh is just 28th in total yards with 288.5 and 25th in points with 19.6. They’re also well in the bottom-third of the league in both passing and rushing yards, as well as 23rd in third-down percentage.
Defense is what’s keeping the Steelers in playoff contention. Pittsburgh is sixth with 320.6 total yards allowed per game and seventh with 19.3 points allowed. The Steelers are roughly top-10 all across the board and are second to only the Patriots in turnover differential.
Who To Watch
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has shaken off a rough first half of the season and is starting to show flashes of what he did last year as a rookie. Over his last three games, all wins, Mayfield has thrown for seven touchdowns to only one interception. He has thrown two or more touchdowns in each of those games after failing to do so at any point this season prior.
It will be interesting to see how well he works with primary targets Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry once again against one of the better defenses around.
The Steelers are going with Devlin Hodges under center after benching Rudolph in last Sunday’s win against the Bengals. Hodges has started one game already this year, going 15-for-20 for 132 yards with a touchdown and interception in a Sunday night victory against the Chargers in Week 6.
With Pittsburgh expected to have a conservative game plan, running backs Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels will be asked to shoulder a bulk of the work on offense against a Browns team that has allowed the eighth-most rushing yards per game.
For the Browns, safety Eric Murray is the only player officially ruled out. Others, like tackle Greg Robinson and pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, are listed as questionable. Other than that, Cleveland should be good to go for Sunday.
The Steelers are likely going to be without their star running back and wide receiver again. Wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster has been ruled out, while running back James Conner is considered doubtful. The only other Steeler to be concerned about is cornerback Artie Burns, who practiced in full on Friday but is listed as questionable.
Odds and Pick
The Browns are slight favorites on the road, listed at -2.0. For Pittsburgh to win this game, its defense will have to be on top of its game. But I think Conner and Smith-Schuster’s lack of availability will be the difference-maker for a team that struggled to put away the winless Bengals without them. Factoring in those injuries and the improvements Cleveland has made over the last few weeks, I’m picking the Browns -2.0.