This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
- Deshaun Watson is done for the season. It sucks that he’s gone, but it also removes the week-to-week uncertainty surrounding whether or not he’d play, if he’d be effective, etc. Instead, the short-term attention at quarterback shifts back to Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had the benefit of a full week of practice this time around.
- Back in Week 2, the Browns lost 26-22 to Pittsburgh. It was extremely frustrating because aside from one play (a 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown by George Pickens), the Steelers’ offense was helpless. The Steelers won that game with two defensive touchdowns — a pick six in the first quarter and a fumble return in the fourth quarter. Adding salt to the wound, Cleveland had the 22-19 lead and the ball with seven minute to go in the game when that fumble happened. Cleveland should’ve never lost that game.
- What can we expect this week from the Browns’ defense? Before the Arizona Cardinals game, I predicted that the defense wouldn’t allow an inch to the Cardinals, and I happened to be pretty spot on. Although I think Pittsburgh’s offense will be marginally better than Arizona’s was, I’m expecting another very dominant performance by Myles Garrett and company.
- Pittsburgh has been throwing it less the past three weeks, as Kenny Pickett is only averaging 120 yards passing per game during that stretch. Their running game has picked up a bit, with Najee Harris still getting us usual amount of carries, but now Jaylen Warren is getting more carries and taking advantage of them with some big plays. Even with all of that, the Steelers’ offense has been worse than Cleveland’s.
This Week is When it Gives
- Pittsburgh ranks 28th in the NFL offensively, but they are also 28th defensively. How in the world do they have a 6-3 record despite those rankings? They grind things out and find a way. Cleveland needs to put the boots to them and blow them out like the 49ers and Texans have done to the Steelers this year, each beating them 30-7 and 30-6, respectively.
- Matt Wilson of DBN talked about the Steelers’ terrible defensive rankings. Pittsburgh is also without their starting safeties, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Keanu Neal. Cleveland will be without Juan Thornhill, but Rodney McLeod doesn’t seem to miss a beat as the third safety.
- For as confident as I am in the Browns’ defense this week, what about their offense? How do we get a successful but efficient game out of DTR? I have to imagine there will be a degree of mobility gameplanned for him. But Pittsburgh also does not defend the run well, so I expect Cleveland to continue running the ball effectively like they did last week. Dawand Jones should be back at right tackle, and Geron Christian gets the start at left tackle.
- Dustin Hopkins had one of his first moments of adversity last week, missing an extra point at a key moment. But he came through with the game-winning field goal still, showing the ice water in his veins.
- James Proche had a detrimental fumble last week, so hopefully he rebounds this week.
- Defensively, Cleveland gets Denzel Ward back after missing much of last week’s game.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 2.5 point favorites against the Steelers.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Pittsburgh can’t throw the ball, doesn’t run the ball particularly well, can’t stop the pass, and can’t stop the run. They are very much a team of X-factors, though, because they find a way to win despite that. I think Cleveland’s defense will shut them down, and the gameplan for DTR will be crafted well to make this a dominant victory for the Browns.” Browns 24, Steelers 3
Thomas Moore: “Welcome back to the starting lineup Dorian Thompson-Robinson! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and keep the Browns playoff hopes alive. No pressure, though!
The Browns start life without quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday, but this time it is different because there is no question about his availability for the rest of the season, so the Browns are riding with DTR, P.J. Walker and a third quarterback to be named later for the final eight games.
Things might be different for DTR this time, compared to his previous start, because the coaching staff navigated the previous four-game stretch without Watson by being a few plays away from being 3-1. That should help influence a game plan that supports DTR by not asking too much of him which, in turn, should limit the turnovers and general poor play that plagued DTR when he started in Week 4.
The Browns will likely not score many points on offense, but that could be OK since the Steelers are no one’s idea of an explosive offense. This game will come down to defense (an area the Browns are good at), special teams (hello Dustin Hopkins and Corey Bojorquez) and which team avoids the killer turnovers (ehh … let’s not focus too much on that).
We doubted the Browns last week and they surprised everyone. This week we are back to believing.” Browns 16, Steelers 10
Barry Shuck: “The Browns’ defense has carried this roster all season, we all know this. The issue has been the roller coaster commonly called “the offense.” While the run game has been consistent, the passing game has been horrendous. For the fourth week in a row, the passing game is ranked dead last in the league right behind the Raiders and Jets. In the past two contests, this has improved with the play of Deshaun Watson. Now that is gone, and along with him being placed on IR the season may be in jeopardy. Yes? No? For whatever reason, GM Andrew Berry has not brought in a veteran to pick up this unit and become a game manager while the defense will keep the Browns in most games. Depending on a rookie and a journeyman to take us to the promised land is a bit to ask. The Steelers are similar to CLE in that they have a good defense while their offense struggles. With Deshaun, this would have appeared to be a lop-sided game. Now? And who is the QB3? No extra guy on the practice squad. Could go either way but one thing is for certain for the remainder of the season: Cleveland will be kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.” Browns 22 (5 FGs, 1 TD), Steelers 20
Jared Mueller: “As frustrating as the Deshaun Watson news was, the Cleveland Browns still have a roster that helped them win a couple of games with PJ Walker and a couple of games when Watson didn’t look great. The Browns have a good enough roster and a rookie QB who had a chance to learn in DTR to compete with most teams in the NFL. While their top seed and Super Bowl hopes are probably dashed, stranger things have happened.
The Pittsburgh Steelers stole Nick Chubb from Cleveland this season and have to come into the Dawg Pound with a fanbase that passionately believes and roots for their team. The Steelers offense isn’t very good and their defense has some weaknesses.” Browns 27, Steelers 17
Curtiss Brown: “You know when you attend a funeral there is always that one family member that falls due to the overwhelming grief? I almost did that when I got the notification that Deshaun Watson was out for the year. It sucks. However, the team has a football game to play on Sunday. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t need to remind everyone of what happened Week 2 on Monday night we all saw it. To quote someone from Twitter/X, “rent is due.”
This game has all the makings of an emotional game with everything at stake. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a good team, I don’t care what their record says this team has been outgained in every game and they are one of the two teams in the NFL to have a negative point differential but have a winning record. If that’s not fraudulent, I don’t know what is. The offense struggles to move the ball down the field and I don’t trust Kenny Pickett in any form of capacity. Defensively, the unit is flawed as I’ve said multiple times on social media (you should follow me curtiss_brown21 on Twitter/X btw) the secondary is leaky and the run defense is suspect.
The Browns have been through a ton of adversity this season, from losing Nick Chubb to losing Deshaun Watson and whenever people count this team out, they somehow find a way to prove everyone wrong. Rent is due on Sunday. Expect a pissed off Browns team to come out on Sunday.” Browns 20, Steelers 17
Matt Wood: “Browns are not losing this game. This are not the old Browns.
DTR is going to look good. Will he be as good as Watson was the last few weeks? No. Will he be Tyrod Taylor? Hopefully. If he does, he will be more than good enough to beat the Steelers who can’t get anything done on offense. Browns defense leads the way, offense doesn’t kill the Browns and the train keeps rolling.” Browns 30, Steelers 17
Ezweav: “That win last week was so incredibly exhilarating, and the crash down two days later was equally anguishing. DeShaun Watson played in the 2nd half (and really, the last three games he started and finished) like every bit the guy we traded for. Losing him was a gut-punch, but this is still a tough team that will persevere to at least be a tough out for the balance of the year. Probably even make the playoffs.
Especially if we win this game on Sunday against the Steelers. Obviously I really, really want that to happen. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that beating Pittsburgh is really the only thing I care about as far as what’s left of the 2023 season is concerned. Just even up with them and I’m good.
Unfortunately, anytime that’s the situation it’s pretty much never happened for me. Many are applying hope that Dorian Thompson-Robinson can be transformed from that epically bad debut against Baltimore. I do not share that hope. In fact the hope I do have is that whenever he inevitably gets yanked for Peej, that we aren’t down by multiple scores.
Alas, these are the types of games Pittsburgh just lives on. I hate them, but I can’t deny what I expect to happen.
Once again shouting out to NTN:” Steelers 11, Browns 5
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.