This Thursday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Short Week Turnaround for the Browns
- The short turnaround for the Browns on Thursday Night Football makes for a big game. Cleveland’s odds of being a playoff team were already shaky due to their quarterback situation, but starting the season at 1-2 would feel like an early dagger in the coffin, especially with how the Week 2 collapse to the Jets went down. If the Browns can be 2-1 heading into an extended week, though — and a victory over the Steelers — then morale would see a bit of a boost.
- In terms of injuries, the Browns will be without Jadeveon Clowney and Chase Winovich, making them thin at the defensive end position. There was a report on Tuesday that Myles Garrett’s status for the game would be up-in-the-air with a neck issue, but as of Wednesday, it looks like he’s going to play. Rookies Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas are expected to fill the void at Clowney’s spot against a shaky Steelers’ offensive line (although they fare worse in run blocking).
- On offense, the Browns will see the return of starting right tackle Jack Conklin. Joel Bitonio, who was a question mark on Tuesday, should be able to start against Pittsburgh. Cleveland’s line being at full strength is great to hear, although that was not a problem in the first two games, as James Hudson did an admirable job blocking. The area where we might see a difference is having David Njoku running routes more, with a bit less blocking.
- For Cleveland, the big question this week is whether the communication at defensive back will be solved or improved. The Browns have had the issue creep up against two teams that are, in my estimation, near the bottom of the NFL when it comes to offensive production. The Steelers fall in that same category, but it’s crazy that we can’t dismiss Mitch Trubisky’s ability to find a wide open receiver downfield because our guys aren’t on the same page. I can understand being beat or talent issues, but that hasn’t been the issue.
The Steelers’ Defense is Still Strong...
- ...they just aren’t as scary without T.J. Watt in the lineup. The good thing about facing Pittsburgh is that you really don’t fear their offense, so on offense, you can afford to be a little more conservative as not to play into their strengths. If you remember in Week 1, right out of the gate, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick had a pick six against QB Joe Burrow of the Bengals, and he also had an interception against the Patriots last week.
- Mitch Trubisky has completed 59.2% of his passes through two games, averaging just 5.1 yards per completion, with 2 touchdown passes to 1 interception. To compare, Jacoby Brissett has completed 65.6% of his passes, with 6.16 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. It’s not a huge leap for Brissett over Trubisky, but because of Cleveland’s offensive line and running game, Brissett is in much better position to succeed.
- Cleveland’s special teams unit had some blemishes in Week 2 that contributed to the loss. The punts were all good, but K Cade York is apparently not a God, as he missed the extra point. That was the first negative in the string of events that occurred, and the game could’ve gone to overtime (or maybe Brissett doesn’t throw the interception) if it had been a full 14-point game.
- Demetric Felton can’t stay as the punt returner, right? He is putting the ball on the ground too much, and one of these times, it’s going to be turned over and lead to a short field for the other team.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 4 point favorites against the Steelers.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I was wrong last week when I said the Browns would get their communication issues cleared up on defense. It’s crazy how that again could’ve been the difference in losing versus winning by 2-3 touchdowns. How do you predict these games when you know that element exists (giving up free touchdowns), yet also be impressed with the methodical nature of the offense thus far? Pittsburgh has their own struggles, so once again, I’ll hope that Cleveland clears things up on the back end.” Browns 23, Steelers 20
Thomas Moore: “It is hard to call a Week 3 game a must win, but that the situation the Browns find themselves in after the debacle at the end the game against the Jets. The defensive secondary can’t seem to get out of its own way, the hoople heads are blaming Nick Chubb of all people, and a defense that returned nine starters from last season is already holding a players only meeting.
A quick turnaround to a Thursday night game - against the Pittsburgh Steelers no less - gives the Browns a perfect opportunity to put the Jets game in the trash bin and bring back some positive energy heading into a 10-day break before the next game.
Lost a bit in the mess that is the defense is an offense that is actually moving the ball and scoring points, which would pair nicely with a defense that would not self-destructing, which we’re going to give the benefit of the doubt and accept that they have fixed the issues.
It is tough right now to back the Browns, especially against the Steelers, but the idea of all the nonsensical noise that will ensue with a loss is too much to consider.” Browns 24, Steelers 14
Barry Shuck: “What a tough game to call. Let’s say the Browns build a decent lead and then let the other team come from behind. That might size up any game this year unless they get the act of allowing receivers and tight ends to be completely wide open. These “communication errors” are killing this team. The defensive line and linebackers are playing lights out every game. With the PFF grades out, the Browns have three defenders in the Top-10 so far: Myles, Walker and JOK, so we know they are doing their job.
The Browns have won each of their past four games on Thursday Night Football. Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky doesn’t look so bad after all with five touchdowns against zero with no interceptions in his previous four starts against the division. WR Diontae Johnson is having a good year as well. Johnson had a touchdown reception in the teams’ last meeting and has at least 95 receiving yards in two of his past three against Cleveland. Defensively Minkah Fitzpatrick is having a Pro Bowl year and is one of only two players with a pick in each of the first two games.
Chubb and Hunt will have to continue to pound out those yards while Myles is looking for the final elusive sack to break the team record for career sacks. Happy to see Amari Cooper get going last week but DPJ will need to contribute as well. With the exception of the pick, QB Jacoby Brissett had a fine game and hopefully this is a trend and not a moment. Cleveland will build a big lead then almost lose it.” Browns 27, Steelers 24
rufio: “Both the Steelers and the Browns are struggling but the Browns have more stars healthy. Normally that would favor the Browns but they are coming off of an epic ‘Browns will Browns’ loss. Myles gets a pair of sacks but the Browns lose.” Steelers 24, Browns 17
Ezweav: “Time heals all wounds. Literally that’s the one positive takeaway from last week: as time goes along we’ll just think about it less.
Pittsburgh‘s offense is dreadful, but for about 5 straight quarters OC’s have been scheme-whipping our defense. Aside and apart from the embarrassing breakdowns leading directly to the loss last week (and almost the week before) is that New York moved the ball up and down the field at will. Whatever we tried to do to stop them they were ahead of us.
So that’s got to be corrected but I don’t expect it to. I’m sure the offense will do it’s job (again) but it won’t matter. At some point late our DB’s will look at each other, not communicate anything, and let Chase Claypool run right by everyone. Trubisky will have no idea what’s happening but chuck it deep anyway and Claypool will breakdance into the end zone.” Steelers 23, Browns 22
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.