NFL Game Preview: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Jan 3, 2022

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Game: Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers  

Time: 8:15 p.m. ET 

Odds: Browns -3.5, Steelers +3.5 

Total: 41 

It’s an AFC North showdown in Pittsburgh where both the Steelers and the Browns still somehow have a shot at making the playoffs. Tonight’s loser is most likely out and the winner would still need lots of help to earn a wild card spot. Either way, it’s a big game for Pittsburgh fans that will likely see QB Ben Roethlisberger play his last game at Heinz Field. The veteran quarterback has said that this is probably his final game. That gives the Steelers some incentive. 

What also gives the Steelers some incentive is being tonight’s underdog. The 7-8 Browns are favored by 3.5 points over Pittsburgh. That’s fine with the Steelers and their head coach Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh under Tomlin relishes the role of the underdog, especially the home underdog. 

In his tenure as the head coach of the Steelers, Tomlin has done very well against the spread in these situations. In games played after Week 5 of a season, Tomlin’s Steelers are 35-15-1 ATS when playing as the underdog. As a home underdog under Tomlin, Pittsburgh is 12-2-1 ATS.  

One of those ATS wins came just a few weeks ago against Tennessee. Somehow, Pittsburgh managed to pull out a 19-13 victory over the Titans despite gaining just 168 yards of offense. With Big Ben playing his last game and the Steelers as the underdog, Pittsburgh has plenty to play for tonight. Plus, the postseason is still a possibility. 

Neither offense has been very good as of late. Cleveland put up 22 points last week in a loss to Green Bay even though QB Baker Mayfield threw four interceptions. What has kept the Browns in games is the defense. Cleveland has lost its last two straight games by a total of four points. Their last three losses are by a combined 10 points.  

They will have to find a way to score some points against Pittsburgh. That might not be all that difficult. In the Steelers’ last four losses – Kansas City, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and the Chargers – the defense gave up 41, 41, 36, and 36 points. You don’t win many games in the NFL when you give up four and five touchdowns a game. That’s why Pittsburgh is 2-4 in its last six games. 

Historically in this rivalry, Pittsburgh has owned the Browns. During the decade of the 2010s, Pittsburgh went 17-3 against Cleveland. Last year, the Browns won a meaningless game in Week 17 but did beat the Steelers at Heinz Field in last year’s AFC wild-card game. However, Pittsburgh still owns a 17-game regular-season home winning streak against Cleveland. 

The Steelers play their best at home. They are 5-0-1 straight up in their last six home games. The Under is the trend in this series with four of the last six games going Under the total. Cleveland has scored over 20 points just twice in its last six games. Pittsburgh has gone over 20 just once in its last five.