Week 17 Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Brownsby Christopher Gallagher January 2, 2021 0 comments
Aiming to end the longest post-season drought currently in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns play host to their divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers in a Week 17 showdown.
Facing a win and in scenario for the second week in a row, Cleveland was upset by the lonely New York Jets last Sunday in a game where the Browns defense surrendered 333 yards, including 131 yards on the ground. Fresh off a huge second-half resurgence against the Indianapolis Colts in week 16, the Steelers have locked up at least the number three seed in the AFC playoffs.
Down 21-3, after yet another miserable half from Ben Roethlisberger and company, the veteran quarterback came alive in the game’s final 30 minutes, throwing for 342 yards and three scores. With one of the most nervous Sunday’s on tap for Browns fans in over 15 years, here’s the breakdown of this one.
After clinching their 7th AFC North title under head coach Mike Tomlin a week ago and at least the number three seed in the playoffs, the Steelers will turn to backup quarterback Mason Rudolph in week 17 after deciding to rest Roethlisberger. Along with this, the team will hold out three more key players with center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker T.J. Watt, and defensive end Cameron Heyward all sitting. Making just his second start since his altercation with star Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett a year ago, the 25-year-old Rudolph will be tasked with navigating a Cleveland defense that has struggled mightily of late, allowing over 145 rushing yards per game, leading to 25 points against.
Needing a strong effort from their supporting cast on the defensive side of the ball with both Watt and Heyward out, the Steelers run defense will be in for a tough task against the league’s number four overall rushing unit. Led by the tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns average more than 145 yards per game on the ground. Along with this, Cleveland will look to get a much-needed boost at receiver as Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and KhaDarel Hodge are all eligible to return in this one after being held out a week ago due to Covid-19 tracing. After completing more than 65 percent of his passes in December, Pittsburgh’s second-ranked pass defense will have their hands full with Mayfield and company in this one.
Closing out the season with just their second home game in as many weeks, the Browns will be far from full strength in this one after shutting down their team facilities on Friday due to a positive Covid-19 test. Without top cornerback Denzel Ward after he was placed on the reserve list, the team will also be without linebackers Malcolm Smith and B.J. Goodson, safety Andrew Sendejo, and tight end Harrison Bryant.
Looking to get their offense back on track against an undermanned Steelers unit, Kevin Stefanki’s group will have all of their pass catchers back on Sunday after being held out last week due to Covid tracing. After throwing for ten touchdowns with a solo interception in the four previous games prior to week 16, Mayfield will need to be sharp in this one as Pittsburgh is tied for the NFL lead in takeaways.
Turning in one of their worst defensive showings a week ago, Joe Wood’s group allowed New York to make big plays all afternoon long, leading to three passing scores and over 300 yards given up against in the loss. Needing to make corrections against a strong Pittsburgh wide receiving group, the team will rely on veteran cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Terrance Mitchell after Ward was ruled out. In addition to this, second-year safety Sheldrick Redwine will also be asked to step up and play increased snaps in the absence of Sendejo.
As they remain thin in the secondary, one key in this one for Cleveland’s defense will be the play of pass rushers Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. With 20 sacks combined between the duo this season, if they can generate consistent pressure on Rudolph all game long, look for the Browns to find success in this one.
Date: January 3, 2021
Start Time: 1:00 P.M. est
Location: Cleveland, OH
Stadium: First Energy Stadium
TV Info: CBS
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Points Spread: CLE -9.5 (-110) | PIT +9.5 (-110)
Moneyline: CLE -425 | PIT +325
Over/Under: O 41.5 (-110) | U 41.5 (-110)
Taking a look at the nine and a half point spread, bet the number and take the Steelers to cover. While they will be down key pieces on both sides of the ball in this one, the Browns are just 1-11 in their last ten games against Mike Tomlin’s group. Along with this, Cleveland is still dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak inside of their facilities, forcing the team to be without multiple players and coaches. With a low over under total set at 41.5 points, bet the over with Mason Rudolph and company supplying enough offense to push the number over the total.
With everything on the line for the Browns in week 17 as they face a win and in scenario against their hated divisional rival, look for them to end the longest active playoff drought in the league. With most of their starters returning on offense, and with Pittsburgh resting key players on both sides of the football, Chubb and Hunt both have big games in a classic AFC North showdown.
Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cleveland Browns 28